In the last of the Aparecida Document’s three parts, we are considering “The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples.” Christ restores the whole person. – This is the real heart of Catholic morality: not that we are required to do something to win Christ’s love, but exactly the opposite: that Christ’s grace restores us to life, brings the fullness of life to all aspects of our humanity.
Aparecida reminds us that this truth must be at the heart of our own encounter with Christ, and that it must express itself in evangelization. Let us give witness that Christ is life, for us and “for our peoples,” the people around us.
The four chapters of Part Three walk us through this truth and three applications:
7. The Mission of the Disciples in the Service of Full Life
8. Kingdom of God and Promoting Human Dignity
9. Family, Persons, and Life
10. Our Peoples and Culture
Chapter Seven says that Christianity is about “fullness of life.” Chapter Eight applies that to how we look at the individual; Chapter Nine the most basic relationships, in the family; and Chapter Ten the broader relationships of society.
Today we consider the family:
9. Family, Persons, and Life
a. Marriage and Family
c. Adolescents and Young People
d. The Well-Being of the Elderly
e. The Dignity and Participation of Women
f. The Responsibility of the Male and Father of Family
g. The Culture of Life: Proclaiming It and Defending It
h. Care for the Environment
Actually, I was thinking about putting these meditations on hold today, and instead talking a little about why I have not been able to write as much the last few weeks. But that would have been a meditation on family, anyway. On the one hand, the exuberantly wonderful demands of my own family at Christmas: above all my children, but also by parents and brothers, who came to visit. How better to celebrate Christmas than with family!
On the other hand, the crosses of family, as we have been very busy tending to very dear friends who are considering divorce, and then a divorce, and a new ersatz-marriage relationship, within our own family. What can be more painful than this!
Even so briefly outlined, my own experience the last few weeks gets at the deeper point. If Christ brings life, that can nowhere be more powerfully true than in the family itself. And nowhere do we more powerfully experience our desperate need for Christ than in the struggles of family life.
Aparecida’s outline nicely shows the reality of this – the sort of inherently bursting-beyond-itself of human life. Marriage, of course, is one of our strongest attractions. The first thing we have to say about celibacy is that everyone remotely healthy wants to get married – celibacy is a sacrifice! It is not good to be alone: we feel that so deep down.
But immediately – before Aparecida even gets beyond point a – our marital relationship is bursting its seams, and becoming “family.” When two people come together . . . other people naturally start showing up! (babies) Our culture tries to convince us – and sometimes Catholics are a bit quick to let themselves be convinced – that marriage is “first of all” about two people. That’s boloney. Marriage is about family. It is human relationship bursting out into new relationships.
And suddenly we are thinking about children . . . and adolescents, and young people! Before we get to our own adolescents, we have others: for me, my younger brothers (in their twenties now), my and my wife’s cousins, etc. How fabulously life ramifies, branches out, leaves us endlessly in relationship.
So too, in the other direction, come the elderly: our own parents, and grandparents – the relationships that burst their seams to make us – and our spouse’s parents, etc.
Even we end up thinking beyond ourselves. Pushing our envelope, perhaps, Aparecida gives us not only “the culture of life” – family makes us worry about a family-friendly world! – but also “care for the environment,” which is most properly thought of not as the worship of Gaia and hatred of man, but as the desire to pass on a beautiful world to our children and children’s children.
Because – this is the point – we are by nature relational beings.
The concrete lesson for today is that these various branchings out of family relationship mean that the place we live life – and the place we live our spiritual life, and our awareness that Christ is life – is above all in family. Family is no distraction from our Christian faith. It is the very tangible place where we show what Christ means for us.
How can your relationships with your family manifest to others that Christ is good news?