We are created to live in love

Feast of the Holy Family (C)

A guest post by Fr. Joel Fortier.

I am grateful to my friend, Fr. Joel Fortier, for sharing this homily on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph with the readers of The Good Disciple. Fr. Joel’s life-long focus on Love has helped countless families and married couples to recognize the Sacred Presence in their own Holy Families.

Christ, who is before time, thru whom all things came to be, is part of the relationship we call Love…God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ, who is from divine relationship, was born in time as Jesus the Christ. The incarnate Word of God, who came from Relationship, was born into relationship…we call family, so that by living in relationship ourselves we might come to share in the Divine relationship we call God, Love.

We are created to live in love, in God, in relationship. It is the image in which we are created. It is our divine DNA.

And so we celebrate today the relationship that Jesus was born into, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph—real people with real names—like us! We are born into Family as well, for better or worse. Often, family is the crucible of life where life is forged by the fire of love. It is and can be our agony and our ecstasy!

But, no matter how we experience family, it is the school of life, the domestic church. Hopefully because of our faith in a God who is love, we can learn how to live in right relationship and love, to be functional human beings. That is the function of life; to live in right relationship, to live in God; to be Justice and Mercy.

That is what the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus, teaches us. And he does so by living in relationship himself. Today’s gospel [Lk 2:41-52] tells us that after he was lost and found in the temple, Jesus returned home with Joseph and Mary; was obedient to them (listened to them), and grew in age, wisdom and grace. Jesus learned from his loving, faith-filled parents about who he was, who he was to be, and what his function in life was to be: to forge a new covenant, a new relationship of love in his own Body and Blood.

It is through this relationship today, this new covenant, which we enjoin upon ourselves in the Eucharist, that we are forged by the fire of divine love into the life of the Holy Family; the People of God. It is the most fitting way to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

It is our Baptismal call and vocation to live in the love that Jesus experienced with Mary and Joseph, where he himself grew and learned of grace and the wisdom of God. We are born into a family as well.

And so St. Paul, who was a realist, tells us, “bear with one another and forgive one another.” He tells us to put on love as a covering for all things and learn of the Mercy and Wisdom of God. By such ways, in relationship, do we grow in age, wisdom and grace, as Jesus did.

Our relationships are sacred channels of grace and peace. We honor and respect our relationships with our mother and father, and each other, according to the new covenant of love that fulfills the old commandment to honor our father and mother, and to love one another as Christ loves us.

We experience Family in many different ways, and so this day we honor and celebrate what it means to be family, to live in love as God loves us, really to live in God, who is relationship, the First Family, reflected and modeled by the Holy Family.

May we so live in a way that reflects and honors that same Divine relationship in whose image we were created. We do so by honoring all our relationships as sacred, Sacramental channels of grace to us! Then St. Paul says, “the peace of Christ will control our hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body.” [Colossians 3:15].

We are one Body, the Body of Christ. That is what Family can teach us. We only need to listen, to obey, as Jesus did.

Happy Feast Day O People of God! May you recognize the sacredness, beauty, and goodness of your own family!

For contemplation: Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. [Col 3:15a, 16a]

Today’s readings can be found here.

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

All In The Family

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

What does it mean to be joined by God to another? For that matter, what does it mean to be joined to God? Both of these difficult questions are at the heart of this weekend’s readings[1] which revolve around God’s plan for the life of the world: our origins, the union of marriage, openness to life, the Kingdom of God, the blessing of children and covenant fidelity to one another. In other words: family life.

Think of these readings as the meat in the sandwich between the events of last week’s wildly successful World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the much anticipated 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family which opens today and continues through October 25. Francis’ many references to the importance of the family during his visit to the United States have given me much to ponder and these combined events are guaranteed to provide plenty to chew on over the next month or so.

I recently participated in an online conversation surrounding the Catholic Church’s focus on openness to life (which for many translates solely to its opposition to artificial birth control). I took issue with one non-Catholic, unmarried person who claimed this teaching was solely responsible for the overpopulation of the planet. Um, really? I was reminded of a time 25 years ago when I, very pregnant, stood in a crowd at a busy intersection in New York City, where I worked, and overheard an intended-to-be-overheard comment from a couple standing right next to me that it was supremely selfish to bring another child into the world. True story. My ears burned for the rest of the day. Actually, it still stings a bit. I feel sorry for people who think this way.

In his address to the joint meeting of Congress on September 24, Pope Francis said,

“How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.” — [September 24, 2015, address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress]

I share Francis’ concern for the family. It troubles me deeply. But to be perfectly honest, I struggle with how to write about marriage and family because I know it is a source of pain for many. I believe strongly in marriage, the joy that children bring to the union, and the value healthy families bring to society. But I know marriage and children are not for everyone and I do not imply that they should be. My long and happy marriage is due to a combination of luck and hard work. We have been blessed to raise two healthy, well-adjusted adult daughters. I’m fully aware that this not the case for everyone. I have many dear friends who are deeply bruised by the experience of divorce and others who struggle to raise troubled children. I come from a large and loving family as does my husband. We are fortunate that both families have remained intact, despite the normal challenges which marriage and family life bring.

My family experience is not the same as yours, and yours is not the same as anyone else’s. It is wrong to compare them, but still, we do. The bottom line is that families come in many shapes, sizes, and circumstances.

The key is love.

Pope Francis affirmed this in his off-the-cuff speech on the importance of family which he delivered to the hundreds of thousands and people gathered in Philadelphia. Referring to God’s highest expression of love—the incarnation of Jesus—Francis said,

“So great was his love, that he began to walk with humanity, with his people, until the right moment came, and he made the highest expression of love – his own Son. And where did he send his son – to a palace? To a city? No. he sent him to a family. God sent him amid a family. And he could do this, because it was a family that had a truly open heart. The doors of their heart opened.” —[September 26, 2015, Pope Francis speech at the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia]

This morning I re-read this speech for the umpteenth time. With each reading I am struck anew by the simple clarity of this brief message which came from this pope’s heart. I read,

“All of the love that God has in himself, all the beauty that he has in himself, he gives it to the family. And the family is really family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love.”

I think that pretty much sums up both what it means to be joined by God to another, and to be joined to God.

Open your arms, families of all shapes, sizes and circumstances, and let the love of God in.

Read a transcript of the Pope’s speech on the importance of family here: http://www.phillyvoice.com/transcript-pope-francis-festival-families-speech/

[1] [Gen 2:18-24, Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-6]