Fr. Bryan Howard
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 22 August 2021
As Christians we know that the foundation of civilization, culture, and society, what makes and builds up communities, is the family. There are a lot of impulses in American society right now that attack the very foundation of the family, and that affect each one of our families. There’s the desire to individual autonomy, which means not having to answer to anyone else or be responsible for anyone else. We see this in the way that families can become like people who happen to live under the same roof, each one having their own life, never eating together or even sitting down to talk and spend time with each other. Another danger for families is consumerism, which is the desire to have more and more things, so that things start to become the center of our lives instead of people. Another danger is the tendency to see disagreeing with what I believe as an attack on my person, which leads to us vilifying people, even family members. Have you noticed how everyone is Hitler, now?
Not everything is doom and gloom, of course, and there’s always hope. Everything I just mentioned is big cultural phenomena, but when I look at particular families I inevitably find reason to hope. The Christian view sees the family as the school of faith and the school of love. Where do we learn about God’s love for us? God loves us unconditionally, He never takes back His love, no matter what we do, and He wants the good for us; He wants to help us become whom we are meant to be. We first experience this type of love in the family. Love isn’t something that we’re born with; it’s something that we learn. In the family we learn to share, to share our toys, our candy bar, our chores, our problems and our successes. We learn that people are more important that objects. We learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Our family is where we learn to pray, to bring our problems to God, and to thank Him for our blessings. When we see our parents make God a priority in their lives by setting aside time for Church and individual prayer and making time to pray as a family, that tells us that God is worth taking time for.
Parents, you are responsible for your children, who are the future of our society. They are the future Christians and future Americans. Your success or failure as parents affects their lives, their children, and their children’s children, for generations. You can impact hundreds, if not thousands, of people for the better and for the worse. Don’t outsource your responsibility to anyone, not to the government, a school, or even the Church. Study after study shows that children whose parents are involved in their education do better in school and in life. Likewise, children whose parents take them to Church weekly, especially the Father, are more likely to keep the faith and pass it on to their children. There simply is no substitute for mom and dad.
So, husbands and wives, if you want to make a strong and stable home for your children, then you have to strengthen your marriage. The best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul lays out the Biblical view of marriage, which Dr. Scott Hahn summarizes in this way, “Paul sees marriage as a loving partnership between spouses of equal dignity.” The model for your marriage is the love that Christ showed for the Church when He gave His life for her.
St. Paul begins, “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Marriage isn’t supposed to be a dominance hierarchy or a competition to see who will wear the pants in the relationship, but a partnership where each one acts for the good of the other out of love. When you enter the sacrament of Matrimony, then living a holy marriage is your path to heaven. Marriage is called a sacrament of service, because you don’t get married for yourself, but out of love for your spouse, and therefore both husband and wife are called to serve one another. St. Paul compares the wife to the Church and the husband to Christ, because their relationship should look like the love Christ has for the Church and the Church has for Christ. Does Christ dominate the Church as a tyrant? No, He gives His life to exalt the Church and glorify her. Does the Church try to use Christ for her own ends? No, the Church glorifies Christ and seeks to grow in union with Him. So, husbands and wives shouldn’t try to dominate one another or use one another, but to grow in union through loving service of one another in a partnership of life.
The Biblical vision of marriage isn’t just difficult, it’s humanly impossible. That’s why our marriages and families, as important as the are, aren’t the highest good. Every family needs to be directed towards Christ. How can you love one another as Christ has loved us unless you first receive His love yourself? Therefore, the most important thing that a family can do for one another, is to come to Church together, as a family, to approach the altar as a family, and to receive the ultimate sacrament of Christ’s love, the sacrament of Christ’s death and Resurrection in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.