On this Sunday after Epiphany, Holy Mother Church turns our eyes in the direction of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, model of all families of the earth. Yesterday on the feast of Our Lady of Cana we contemplated how Our Blessed Lord consecrated marriage by His presence at the wedding feast. We were reminded that the history of humanity began with a marriage and that it will end with the marriage feast of the Lamb when God will wed all the saints to Himself in an eternal bond.
Today we consider how it is that the human family is the image of God’s love on earth and the foundation of society. Indeed, the family cell composed of father, mother and children is the most fundamental society, grounded in the law of nature, which points to the love of God who created us as social beings and wants us to reach Him in a social context.
The institution of this feast in the 19th century corresponds on behalf of the Church with a desire to counter the modern attacks on the family. At that time, in the name of a depraved notion of human freedom and without regard for the law of God, the enemies of God and religion fought for the legalisation of divorce and remarriage in once Catholic countries. In the 20th century, the legalisation and promotion of contraception and abortion, then the social acceptance of sodomy, and finally the legalisation of euthanasia: all are aimed at overturning that primitive divinely instituted unit of the family.
We may wonder why this is. Why would Satan want to destroy the family? The reason is simple. The war on the family is essentially a war on God, because the family is created by God; it is the divinely instituted means by which God intends to bring human beings into existence and lead them to eternal life. It is also the safeguard of good morals and decent human living. It is good and wholesome for a man to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife and to form a new family. The battle is fierce, and it is one to which no Catholic can be indifferent. It is a war to the death in which Satan seeks to pull humans down to the level of the beast by means of the exaltation of the individual ego and its whims of the moment.
It is not possible to be a Catholic and support contraception, abortion, sodomy, or euthanasia. It is not possible for a Catholic politician to promote any of these or even to be neutral on these questions, nor is it possible for a Catholic priest or bishop to not speak with clarity on these issues. They are issues of life and death for our society. They are issues that concern the salvation and damnation of souls. When we look at the state of the family today, it’s like looking at a devastated landscape, similar to that of Nagasaki after the atomic bomb explosion. The magnificent structure of Christendom with its God centred society, at the heart of which is the Christian family, is trampled in the mud, shamefully put on a par with its caricatures which are the epitome of vice.
In that context, it is the role of every true Christian to promote sound morals by living the beauty of God’s plan. Man and woman unite in marriage to become God’s instruments for the propagation of the human race and thus people heaven with souls that will glorify God forever. If Christian parents avail themselves of the teaching of the Church and the sacraments, if they have a strong prayer life, then they are contributing to the reform of society. If they do not, they fall prey to the vices of the world and contribute to the total downfall of civilisation. The attack on the family is also an attack on God who became incarnate in a family. That is the great lesson of today’s feast: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in their life of love and service together are, for all of us, married and non-married alike, the model of how to live, work and pray together, how to serve each other’s needs and bear with each other’s infirmities.
St Benedict in the Rule gives his monks this very precious piece of advice when he says that the monks must “tolerate most patiently the infirmities, both physical and moral”, of their brothers. Those words are, as it were, an echo of the beautiful program St Paul gives to the Colossians. It is one that we should frequently meditate upon for it illustrates those ineffable virtues of family life of which the Holy Family gives us such a compelling example: Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. Wives, be subject to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col ch. 3). If we seek to practice that program, then we can be sure that God is among us and, little by little, the Christian civilisation will be rebuilt over the ashes of our modern Sodom and Gomorra.