Thursday, January 24, 2013

The family is our future

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write this, I have just come from celebrating the Eucharist for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This year, we heard the beautiful Gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana. And it is no coincidence that the first public event that Jesus attends after his baptism is a wedding.

At Cana, Jesus is sanctifying the ancient natural institution of marriage. He is lifting up marriage and showing us what God intended for marriage from the beginning. Marriage is far more than a civil union. Jesus shows us that God intends it to be a “sacrament,” a sign of his presence and plan for the world.

The history of salvation is a “family story.”

In the first pages of scripture, we read about the marriage of Adam and Eve when the world was created. In the final pages we hear God’s promise that of a new creation in the “wedding feast” of Jesus Christ and his church.

From the beginning to the end of history, God is creating — from out of all the peoples of the earth — one single family. The family of God. His Catholic Church.

As you know, strengthening marriage and the family is one of my five pastoral priorities for the archdiocese. This is one of the great needs in our society and in our church in this time.

We have a crisis of the family. That is not too extreme to say. We can point to statistics — almost half of the children born today in our country are born to a mother who is not married. Or we can point to the fact that the definition of marriage is now a political “problem” that courts, legislatures and interest groups are trying to solve.

Some scholars are using the term “post-familial” and “families we choose” to describe attitudes today. More people are living as if marriage and family are not gifts from God, but arrangements they themselves make with people they themselves choose to live with.

The church — meaning each one of us — must lead the renewal and restoration of these natural and sacred institutions in our society.

As Catholics, we are the “keepers” of God’s family plan for history. And we know that in his plan, the family is the place where we find the happiness and love that he intends for us.

There are many things we can do — as individuals and in our parishes and communities — to rebuild a “family culture.”

We need to study and try to understand the forces — economic, political and cultural — that are weakening marriage and the family. We need to study alternatives and advocate for more “family-friendly” policies that make it easier for men and women to keep their families together.

But much of what needs to be done must come from us — from our support and from our example.

In this Year of Faith, let’s examine what we can do, as individuals and parishes. What can we do to help families where both parents are working? What can we do to help single mothers?

Little works of love and friendship can mean so much.

The best apostles for marriage and the family will always be married couples themselves. Begin where you are, my friends! Work to extend your circles of friendship and mutual care among other couples and families in your parishes and communities.

Perhaps you can consider forming small groups of couples to study the Bible or the Catechism or some spiritual book. Maybe you can organize volunteer activities to support a crisis pregnancy center or another agency serving children and families in need.

The family is our future — as a church and as a society.

So let us pray for one another this week. And let’s pray especially for marriages and for parents and their children.

Let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary, who is our mother, to help every family stay faithful in love.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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