Family Become What You Are

In the third part of Familiaris Consortio [FC] JPII asks the family to “become what you are.” This request stands in contradiction to what the world is constantly telling us. In the West, governments and other societal forces are demanding that we change the way we understand marriage and family and to re-construct our vision of family along very different lines. Now divorce, contraception, multi-partners of either gender, and intentional and induced childlessness are to be the norm. The world tells us that human nature is plastic; we are our own gods and we can make of ourselves whatever we please. JPII’s reminder here is a true sign of contradiction in the midst of all this secular confusion. The biblical mandate proclaims that man has a ‘received’ nature; he is created and must discern what that nature is if he is ever to be happy. The Word tells us that we have a God, not that we are gods. The secular promises ultimately are delusional and this is confirmed by the increasing wreckage we see amongst families which buy into this way of thinking.

FC also says that “the family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what is it, but also its mission, what it can and should do.” We do not create the structure of the family. Our task is to discover how God has created us and to work within His plan. This, and this alone, leads to joy. God does have a plan and purpose for our families and for our marriages. This is not something we are inventing. Ultimately, families are a gift to be received.

St. Paul was always encouraging Christians to be what they were. They had come out of paganism, out of sin, out of destructive lifestyles and had found new life in Christ. In Him, they discovered their true natures as sons of the living God. This is who they truly were. They received this nature in baptism and now they had to live this out on a daily basis. The temptation was always to fall back into their former sinful lifestyles. But this identity was alienated from God. Instead, Paul encouraged them to forget what had gone on before and to continue striving towards the prize of eternal life. ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17). The force of our fallen natures and this world pulls us away from the truth of who we are in Christ. Our task as Christians is to remain rooted in Christ, affirming who we truly are in Him so that we can gain eternal life. This is the high-calling and drama of Christian life.

This process is the same for the identity of the family. We must not allow the world to tell us what the family is. We must not let the forces active in our society deform our understanding of the family in Christ. ‘Families, be what you truly are.’

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