Next September 22-27, 2015 will be the eighth World Meeting of Families and it will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Pontifical Council for the Family and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have created a preparatory catechesis for this great event in the life of the Church. The document is called “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” This 120-page booklet is a collection of some of the best thinking that the Magisterium has put forward on the Christian family. It is divided into ten chapters. I’d like to start a series commenting on this booklet, doing one chapter per month, to encourage people to read it and to help you, and me, to better understand this catechesis’ purpose. You can order a copy here.
The first chapter is called “Created for Joy.” It asks us to think about some of the most basic questions about our life. But it doesn’t just ask important questions. It also helps us see the answers which Jesus Christ, Our Lord, provides for us.
One question this catechesis raises is, “Do we create the meaning of our lives?” If we have to create the meaning of our lives ourselves, because we are all there is, our creation is be a poor one. We will always remain incomprehensible to ourselves, as St. John Paul II points out (13).
However, if we discover the meaning of our lives in a person, the person of Jesus Christ, we make a rich discovery. We discover the person who is rich in love and mercy, because he really is the Son of the Living God. Man’s mystery, then, begins to be revealed in the mystery of Christ.
Another question is, “Can anyone really promise love forever?”
The answer “Created for Joy” begins to provide is that God does promise to love us forever. And because he does, a man and a woman in love can promise love forever to each other. They, in turn, the couple can promise love forever to the children that God may bless them to raise. This love forever is the basis by which each child can grow up and not be incomprehensible to himself or herself.
Another question “Created for Joy” asks is, “What has Christ revealed about God?” Most simply, Christ has revealed that God is a triune union of loving persons who invites us into his family.
As “Created for Joy” goes on, the questions go deeper. “What does it mean to be human?” In other words, what is our origin and destiny? This is what the question of the meaning of our lives really asks.
What’s the answer? We are called to communion, that is, to friendship and love, with God. This is the source of human dignity. This call and reality can’t be taken away by anything that anyone does to us or by anything we might do.
Then the dynamic of love in a good, but fallen, yet redeemed world begins.
This call to communion is a call to love. A call to love means to make oneself a gift to God and to one’s neighbor. Further, to make oneself a gift means to serve others. Finally, in our difficult human condition, to serve others means to sacrifice oneself.
Jesus Christ is the pioneer in this way of communion through the gift of sacrificial love by the witness of his supreme sacrifice on the Cross for love of us by which God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.
And so “Created for Joy” asks a final question: “What is the mission of the family?
The answer is “Love is our mission.”
Mission means what one is sent to do. What is the family sent into the world to do?
The answer is to love and to teach love. Each person has the vocation or call to love. God does not give a vocation without also giving the means to carry it out. Thus, each man and woman has “the capacity and responsibility of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”. (22)
So, God calls the family to make God’s love “visible and radiant”. (22) If we can do that, what will be the outcome? It will be joy, because the family will be fully alive. Life in a family is a summons to love as God loves in everyday life. In being fully alive through love, the family shows forth the glory of God.
I think the authors of the material in “Created for Joy” would love it if you would read, study, reflect on, and especially talk with God about these truths. As the Holy Spirit moves you, you can engage with this material alone, with your spouse if you are married, with members of your parish, or with your neighbors of good will.