Chapter 16. The Human Family
"I am the Vine, ye are the branches."
"I am the Vine, ye are the branches."
Drawn by Rudolf Koch. Courtesy of Arion Press.
About two million years after the time of our first parents "Adam and Eve", about six billion people now inhabit the earth, and God loves every one of us uniquely and together. May we see each human person as a precious child, a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19), "created in the image and likeness of God" (Gen 1:26). May we respect human life from the moment of conception until natural death. May we allow Christ to live in us. May we see one another with the eyes of Jesus, listen to one another with His ears, and help one another with His hands.
How wonderful is the human family living in harmony, our children "like olive plants around our table" (Ps 128:3). May God bless all families, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, children, the young, middle-aged, and the elderly with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, humility, and self control (Gal 5:22). May we mirror the love of the Holy Family. The family is a nucleus for the larger Church, each home a sacred chapel united within a worldwide cathedral. May our prayers rise up and join that of all families, for forgiveness, justice and peace in our hearts and in the world, and renewed family and Church life today.
Together as the Church, our families build up the community. We experience communion within the community, within our Church, home, school, workplace, city, country, and the world. We stand together in wonder and awe in the Presence of God. Here we are on one side of the ocean looking at the same body of water that our brothers and sisters are seeing from the other side. A 12th grade religion class in Liberia prized the following as community values: love, care, cooperation, unity, respect, friendship, happiness, family, hospitality, sharing, kindness, education, and tradition (St. Martin's, Gbarnga, Liberia, July 1985). When we live simply, we can more readily share.
Jesus gave us a mission, to "go out to all the world and tell the Good News" (Mk 16:15). Jesus called the first apostles to be "fishers of men" (Mk 1:17). He recognized that "the harvest is rich but the laborers are few" (Lk 10:2). We pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, for missionaries and teachers. We pray for them that they may be completely dedicated to Christ and His Church. May God bless them with the gifts necessary to live by the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Let us remember to thank the priests, brothers, and sisters who serve and pray for us.
How do all of us tell the good news? Many around us simply need a little encouragement, a prayer, a kind word, and our example so that they can cross the threshold to faith and to the Church. "Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). As "citizens of Heaven" (Phil 3:20), let us remind one another about God's Love for us. May we share the gifts, talents, and resources that we have with one another. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." So let us do every small thing for the love of God. May we pray and work for peace, understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation in our own families and around the world. In the Eucharist—in Holy Communion, we are together in Christ. "We are one body in Christ" (Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 12:27, Col 3:15).
Genesis 2:24 (NIV)
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
My child, obey the teachings
of your parents ...
From the milk of the goats, you can make enough cheese to feed your family and all your servants.
She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family and for her servants.
Song of Solomon 4:16
Let the north wind blow,
the south wind too!
Let them spread the aroma
of my garden,
so the one I love
its delicious fruits.
And anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will surely be rewarded.
All who have given up home or brothers and sisters or father and mother or children or land for me will be given a hundred times as much. They will also have eternal life.
But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how good he has been to you."
Mark 5:41 (NIV)
After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!").
Luke 2:33 (NIV)
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Cornelius was a very religious man. He worshiped God, and so did everyone else who lived in his house. He had given a lot of money to the poor and was always praying to God.
The local people were very friendly, and they welcomed us by building a fire, because it was rainy and cold.
1 Timothy 5:4
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to serve God by taking care of her, as she once took care of them. This is what God wants them to do.
Because Noah had faith, he was warned about something that had not yet happened. He obeyed and built a boat that saved him and his family. In this way the people of the world were judged, and Noah was given the blessings that come to everyone who pleases God.
1 Corinthians 7:3–4 (NIV)
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
Ephesians 5:23, 28, 33
A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.
Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness ...
1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you should agree and have concern and love for each other. You should also be kind and humble.
After this, I saw a large crowd with more people than could be counted. They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands...
No man is an island entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
—John Donne (1572–1631).
Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
—Blaise Pascal. Pensées , 347.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
—Bl. Edmund Ignatius Rice, CFC (1762–1844). Concluding prayer regularly repeated throughout the day by the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
The height of a creature's love returning to God is the Immaculata—a being without stain of sin, wholly beautiful, wholly belonging to God. Not even for a moment did her will bend away from the will of God. ... When, O Mother Immaculate, will you become queen of all and each soul in particular? When will all the souls in the entire world know the goodness and love of your heart toward them?
—St. Maximilian Kolbe. Aim Higher!: Spiritual and Marian reflections of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Prow Books / Franciscan Marytown Press.
Look with hope to the future and welcome with trust the challenges of the third millennium, fully aware that Christ is by your sides. You, who by virtue of your charism, are particularly called to revive the faith and rekindle the fire of charity in all circumstances, are invited to clearly keep the preferential option for the 'image of God', which is waiting to be revealed in the lives of every brother and sister. Learn to recognize the face of Christ in every person.
—Pope John Paul II, 6 October 1998 (VIS—Vatican Information Service). With permission.
During the days of creation, God looked at His handiwork and saw that what He made was good. It could not be otherwise. The harmony of nature reflected the perfection of the Creator. Finally, God created man. He created him in His own image and likeness. He entrusted to him the magnificence of the world so that, by enjoying and using its goods in a free and rational way, he would cooperate actively in bringing God's work to perfection. When man sinned sin not only broke the bond of love between man and God ... it also disturbed the harmony of all creation. If, however, the world shared in the effects of sin, it also shared in the divine promise of the Redemption when the Son of God came to embrace creation anew ... to restore to creation its original holiness and dignity
—Pope John Paul II, 12 June 1999 (VIS—Vatican Information Service). With permission.
I dream that people did not call names
Instead sit down and play some games
There would be absolutely no poor
Everyone would have a house with a dutch door
Everybody would have food
and nobody would be rude.
It may be hard to do
But someday I hope it will come true!
—Jonathan A. Brach (2001, the author's son at 10 yr. old). With Permission.
To see the face of God
In one another
To touch the hand of God
As we help a child take first steps
And help a senior from a chair
To hear the laughter of God
In the young and old
To breathe the breath of God
Upon the wind
To taste the sweetness of God
From the food He provides
And in the Bread of Life
To be embraced by the hug of God
Through a parent or spouse
To be bathed in the shower of God
By every shower and dew
And in Baptismal waters
To shine in the radiance of God
To reflect that light to all.
Filled with the Spirit of God,
To live the Love of God.
—Anthony R. Brach (1985).
(C) 2002 by Anthony R. Brach.