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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

What Happened To Our Family!

This is a sermon given for the Feast of the Holy Family. It was not written, nor given by me, although my wife swore that it was mine, great minds must think alike, but I felt that it so much speaks a prophetic truth, it is well worth sharing.

Here is the homily for your review:

I am going to begin our reflection with a metaphor. Say that an animal is traveling across the desert. The animal is hot and near exhaustion when he comes upon a watering hole. His instinct is strong and the desire to drink the water is overwhelming. Actually, his desire to drink is so overwhelming that he does not notice the other dead animals all around the tainted water hole. He drinks deeply of the water and, as a result, he, too, dies. Later, a man comes along the same path. He, too, is hot and tired, near exhaustion. He, too, is overwhelmed with a desire to drink the cool water. Yet, he hesitates and he notices the carcasses all around the water hole. He REASONS that the water must be poisoned. He decides he must not drink… and he moves on, looking for a fresh and safe water supply.

Our situation is no different. Together we are on a journey through life that has taken us through an arid culture that has become sinister and increasingly dark. All of us, everyone, is exhausted and need to be replenished. But from what will we drink? Hundreds have gone before us and have tried to quench their thirst with water that will only lead to death. Nobody wants to be told to “do this” or “not to do that”, and the result is always the same: the carcasses are piled all around us; the stench from rotten corpses is so repugnant we feel the urge to vomit… and yet, we continue to drink of this water anyway, always with the same result – extramarital sex (including premarital sex and affairs), contraception, pornography (including chat rooms), abortion, placing careers and money above other more important needs of the family, disregard for the spiritual well being of the family, in a word, selfishness. Young people, too: drugs and alcohol, premarital sex, obsession with our appearance, excessive and violent electronic games, inappropriate movies and music… we drink deeply of this water and, as those who have tried this before, we surely die.

Today, when I talk about the situation of the American family, I often encounter anger. I, in no way believe that I have every answer or understand every nuance of raising a family. But I have been in the homes of countless people and have talked with hundreds of young people and yet, when I give advise or counsel, my advice [and that is all it is, it can be regarded or disregarded] often makes people angry. They do not consider my words or the Wisdom of the Church and, before long, their efforts end in disaster.

This is what has happened to us:

In the 19th century, the father was a pillar of the family. Because most fathers worked on farms with their sons, there was ample interaction. Boys became men by learning and working -side by side- with their fathers. Daughters had the benefit of knowing and learning from their fathers as well. But after the industrial revolution, the men left the farms and, as a result, were absent from the family for at least 8 hours (and sometimes more) per day. In addition, we saw the rise of the career; in order to advance at work, men had to give more of themselves to their career and less to their families.

Likewise, in the 1940’s with World War II and the 1960’s under the influence of the feminist movement, women also left the home. Before we jump to a conclusion here: I have no problem with certain aspects of the women’s movement; however, I do not understand why in the movement’s push to have women work in the workforce, they simultaneously made millions of mothers feel inadequate. Mothers began to question their personal worth as well as their irreplaceable importance as the other pillar of the family.

Breathe deep here: this is not a judgment for fathers or mothers, it is only an observation!

This is the truth: a woman’s genius is in her ability to nurture. I have watched this; it is beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. I love to watch a mother in her interaction with her children. It is much more than being a homemaker; there is something mysterious at work in the vocation of a mother.

A man’s genius is in his ability to mentor. A father cannot be replaced. That, too, is a central truth. Our modern culture has either allowed men to falter in their responsibility or has even gone as far as to destroy a man’s contribution to the family.

The first five years of a child’s life is the most important. The child learns about him or herself in those years. If mother and father are not present to him or her, the child is at a distinct disadvantage – for the rest of his or her life. Parents need to know that, following the birth of their child, every single second, whether they are at work or play or whether they are with their children or at work, for good or for ill, they are teaching their children.

Pope Benedict has been teaching this for years. Recently, he taught a profound truth when he wrote, “We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she [teaches her child about love].” Perhaps, since we have experienced great change in our social systems, the art of nurturing and mentoring has been lost. I am afraid some of us do not know any better. Nonetheless, the need remains! Parents have an unbelievably challenging task.

The Pope also told us: “It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist… If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “It is good that you exist” – someone must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.”

This is not learned just anywhere; it must be learned in the home – and it is a lesson that takes years to teach. More than that and because of the many negative and evil influences in our world, I think children must actually be convinced of this by his/her parents.

Why do we have politicians and sports figures and movie stars and husbands and wives and even priests who are obsessed with power and sex and money? Simply –and sadly- because this validation / affirmation / permission to exist, was never given to them in the home. Nobody is at fault… it is simply an art that seems to have been lost by our current culture.

The Church teaches that the purpose of marriage is the unity of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. The primary education that parents provide for their children is this “affirmation of their existence in love”, followed by years of training in the virtues as well as character development. Consider this: if a child does not know love, his/her own validation, he/she, in turn, cannot love. And how, I must ask, will they recognize it and receive it from God? Not recognizing and receiving God’s love is condemnation for eternity.

What can we do?

* Parents must remember the most important responsibility they have to their child is not material needs or social needs, it is the eternal destiny (heaven or hell) of the child.

* We must rediscover the importance of our vocations as fathers and mothers… as well as the art of mentoring and nurturing. Much of this can be found in your instinct and common sense. I, personally, would evaluate, suspiciously, every idea about parenting and family that comes from the culture.

* Ask someone in their eighties! We lost sight of family somewhere along the way, grandparents lived in a world quite different than ours.

* Please, pray at home as a family. There is nothing more powerful than to see a father kneeling in prayer along side his wife.

* Take responsibility for the spiritual formation of children.

* Know that marriage is difficult – it cannot be neglected or taken for granted.

* Above all, we as a church (laity and ordained) need to work together for the family. Be aware: some in our world are trying to drive a wedge between us.

This is why the Church focuses on the Holy Family this weekend. It is our prayer today that we learn from the Holy Family… not as some unreachable standard that we will never see. We pray that we might learn from Mary and Joseph, we pray for their prayers – that they might bring the peace of Bethlehem to our own families.

It is never too late for any of us, so be of good cheer. We all belong to the family of Our Heavenly Father; none of us is lost.

But it is well time we begin to take the vocation of the family very very seriously. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say it is time to fight heroically for the family, and every single child among us.

1 comment:

Victor S E Moubarak said...

What a great sermon. Thanx for posting it.

God bless.