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Fragmentation of Families

posted Dec 28, 2017, 10:09 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 28, 2017, 10:10 PM ]
- Fr Anthony Charanghat

In the 21st century, the notion of ‘family’ is undergoing radical change, leading to a fragmentation that endangers our society. We are all aware of those who belong to separated, divorced or single-parent families. Discussions of same-sex ‘marriage’ and civil partnerships are challenging the God-given design of fruitful marital relationships. Today, the long tentacles of pornography and child abuse have invaded our homes, schools, church, tourism, and the Internet, to strangle family relationships and erode trust in those whom parents have long considered loving guardians of their children. 

Yet, the home is indeed a holy place. Perhaps nowhere more than in the heartfelt dynamic of married life, where the human spirit stretches itself, in its trusting and letting go, to the limits of its potential, is this sacrament of incarnate love more clearly sacramentalised in both joy and pain. 

This feast of the Holy Family is dedicated to the ideal of the family as the beginning and basis of human society, and a foreshadowing of the hope found in the Scriptural narratives on God’s vision of the human family. The Gospel accounts, in particular, reveal the attitudes and interactions prevailing in the Holy Family of Nazareth, presenting a model for the human race to become like the family of God, in which the fullness of the Law would be true conjugal Love. 

It should be obvious that what we are seeking in the Word of God is not an anachronistic family model, but a Spirit-guided discernment of the biblical values and attitudes that must be transplanted into our own homes and families. This would result from committing to a marital relationship between a man and woman created in the image of God and being open to an offspring - the gift of their conjugal union, no matter what cultural context we find ourselves in, and under whatever government policies we live our faith. 

From the Bible account of the Holy Family, we can distil three points about the family, the small community that has such a serious impact on us --- the family as a bridge, a community and a home. The Old Testament Book of Sirach speaks about human life as connected across generations. We have responsibilities and relationships with the generations before us (as well as those after us) respecting the life of aged parents, the sacredness of a conjugal love between spouses, and protecting the vulnerable life in the womb yet to be born. 

Sirach writes, “My son, take care of your father (and mother) when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten…” While we think about our responsibilities to the next generation, we need to remember the generation that preceded us. We are to be instruments of Christ’s care and love to one another. The family is a community in which one generation cares for another - a bridge that connects generations. 

The family is also a spiritual community, a community of faith. We need to learn what it means to be a Christian family. We need to learn how to pray, how to be patient, how to reconcile, how to grow in conjugal fruitful love and show the care and concern that is transparent in the family of Nazareth. The family is where those lessons about life have their unshakeable foundation. 

The family is the home of love. The family is where we start to learn the virtues of patience, responsibility, cooperation, self-discipline, self-control and dealing with authority. 

The Christian family, patterned on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is really the testing ground for how deep our discipleship really is - to mirror the love of God so that it can withstand the phenomenon of fragmentation of families.