At an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come
“‘The time’ has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was…”
With this solemn words the Liturgy of this First Sunday of Advent leads the whole Church into a time of expectation and preparation. It is a time in which each Christian community relives the sense of expectation which the Prophets aroused in the people of Israel, as they looked forward in hope to the fulfilment of the promise: “A young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”.—which means “God with us”. It is a time of preparation for the coming of a child, the “Prince of Peace”: the infant of Bethlehem, who is at the same time the Son of God, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity…
The family in God’s plan for humanity and for the Church is the theme of this Eucharistic celebration. The Son of God, in becoming man, began that special family which the Church venerates as the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph…
“...The family is the domestic church”. The meaning of this traditional Christian idea is that the home is the Church in miniature. The Church is the sacrament of God’s love. She is a communion of faith and life. She is a mother and teacher. She is at the service of the whole human family as it goes forward towards its ultimate destiny. In the same way the family is a community of life and love. It educates and leads its members to their full human maturity and it serves the good of all along the road of life The family is the “first and vital cell of society”. In its own way it is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church. The future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family.
It is not surprising that the Church has given much thought and attention in recent times to questions affecting family life and marriage. Nor is it surprising that governments and public organizations are constantly involved in matters which directly or indirectly affect the institutional well-being of marriage and the family. And it is everyone’s experience that healthy relationships in marriage and the family are of the greatest importance in the development and well-being of the human person.
The economic, social and cultural transformations taking place in our world are having an enormous effect on how people look upon marriage and the family. As a result many couples are unsure of the meaning of their relationship, and this causes them much turmoil and suffering. On the other hand, many other couples are stronger because, having overcome modern pressures, they exercise more fully that special love and responsibility of the marriage covenant which make them see children as God’s special gift to the and to society. As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.
With regard to the family, society urgently needs “to recover an awareness of the primacy of moral values, which are the values of the human person as such”, thus “recapturing the ultimate meaning of life and its fundamental values”...
...The Church reaches out to all families: in the first place to those Christian families striving to be ever more faithful to God’s plan. She tries to strengthen and accompany them on the path of growth. But she also reaches out, with the compassion of the Heart of Jesus, to those families that are in difficult or irregular situations.
The Church cannot say that what is bad is good, nor can she call valid what is invalid. She cannot fail to proclaim Christ’s teaching, even when this teaching is difficult to accept. She knows too that she is sent to heal, to reconcile, to call to conversion, to find what was lost. Hence it is with great love and patience that the Church tries to helps all those who experience difficulty in meeting the demands of Christian married love and family life.
The charity of Christ can only be realised in the truth: in the truth about life and love and responsibility. The Church has to proclaim Christ: the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and in so doing she has to teach the values and principles which correspond to man’s calling to “newness” of life in Christ. The Church is sometimes misunderstood and considered lacking in compassion because she upholds God’s creative plan for marriage and the family: his plan for human love and the transmission of life. The Church is always the true and faithful friend of the human person on the pilgrimage of life. She knows that by upholding the moral law she contributes to the establishment of a truly human civilization, and she constantly challenges people not to abdicate their personal responsibility with regard to ethical and moral imperatives.
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths”. With this invitation the Prophet Isaiah tells us how we must respond to God, and this response applies also to God’s plan for marriage and the family. Couples are offered the grace and strength of the Sacrament of Marriage precisely so that they may walk in the paths of the Lord and follow his ways, observing the plan which Christ has confirmed and ratified for the family. This plan testifies to the way it was in the “beginning”—as God willed it in the beginning for the well-being and happiness of the family…
...You know how much Christian courage you need in order to carry out God’s commands in your lives and in your families. It is the courage to be willing every day to build up love—the kind of love of which Saint Paul says: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things… endures all things. Love never ends.”
...The moral order demands that the rule written into the processes of life by the Creator in the act of creation should be always and everywhere respected. The Church’s well-known opposition to contraception and sterilization is not a position arbitrarily taken, nor is it based on a partial perspective of the human person. Rather it expresses her integral vision of the human person, who is gifted with a vocation that is not only natural and earthly but also supernatural and eternal. Moreover, the Church’s understanding of the intrinsic value of human life as an irrevocable gift of God explains why the Second Vatican Council speaks of “the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life” and considers abortion as an “unspeakable crime”...
...The Gospel call to “watch” also means building the family on a sense of responsibility. Genuine love is always responsible love. Husbands and wives truly love each other when they are responsible before God and carry out his plan for human love and human life; when they answer to each other and are responsible for each other. Responsible parenthood involves not only bringing children into the world, but also taking part personally and responsibly in their upbringing and education. True love in the family is forever!
Finally, in striving to be perfect in love let us remember the words of Saint Paul: “Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light… put on the Lord Jesus Christ”.