Reflection by Bishop Kenneth Richards, Bishop of St. John’s-Basseterre
As Christians, our perspective on life must always be guided by the revealed vision of Our Lord God. A renewed commitment to this approach to our living experience is ever so needed in the face of the many conflicting challenges of our contemporary existence; an existence heavily influenced by a secular approach to living. Family Life is one institution that has to contend with the secular challenge at hand.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family this Sunday, we must take the opportunity to reflect and renew commitment to God’s plan for the Family, in order to counter the secular challenge. By this, the image and role of the Family as the Treasure of the Church, and the Most Basic Unit of Society can attain a new vibrancy. Today’s Reading from the Book of Genesis and the Letter to the Hebrews presents Abraham and Sarah, and the Gospel of Luke presents Joseph and Mary as model families fulfilling God’s purpose. Both families accommodated the providence of God for their family.
Knowing and reflecting on God’s providence is most fundamental for a person of faith. Faith that is grounded on hearing God’s Word, believing God’s Word, and acting on God’s Word. The Passage read from Genesis (15:1-6) reports that: Abram put his faith in the Lord, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness. And the Reading from Hebrews (11:8, 11–12, 17–19) affirms: By faith Abraham obeyed; also: By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. The Gospels of Luke (2:22–40) records that Joseph and Mary, fulfilled certain obligations according to the Law of the Lord, consecrating their child to the Lord.
Their example of obediently fulfilling the direct instructions or established precepts of The Lord, are examples for our consideration. Our faith community and families must consider the extent to which we practice such faith obedience. For obedient faith is necessary to counter self-indulgent will, doing things our own way, independent of God’s purpose. This is the character of the secular approach to our living experience that results in consequences that we lament.
Hearing what Our Lord God has to say and to wait patiently on the fulfillment of His promise, is an integral aspect of obedient faith. The story of Abraham’s readiness to go where God directed him, and his patient awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise, are instructive. Also, Sarah’s accompanying faith saw the fulfillment of God will, her bearing a child at age 90; an impossibility according to human standards.
However, the crowning example of Abraham’s faith, was his readiness to give up his son out of loyalty to God. His son who was the fulfillment of God’s promise, and so dear to him. But, obedient faith was for him a greater value. It has been said that when Abraham was going up the hill, Isaac belonged to him. But after he showed his willingness to offer his son as sacrifice in obedience to God, his son belonged to God, who returned him.
What are the opportunities for expressing obedient faith, especially within our families? Just as Mary and Joseph took their baby Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as required by the law of the Lord, and Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice; the equivalent is our having our children baptized as infants. Just as Jesus’ parents went as family to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover (Lk 2:42), and there is no doubt they went weekly to the local Synagogue for worship; parents can make similar provisions for their children in Church. Hence, the child Jesus, grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (Lk 2:40); our children can have the same benefit.
But, one too many parents, having baptized their children, are non-committal to followup with prayer, the sharing of personal faith, and practical examples of living faith, in the home. Then there are the irregular attendance and partial involvement at church. Other activities take precedence over catechetical formation, and ministry involvement as Altar Servers, Lectors, Ushers, etc. The combination of these, among others things, negatively affect the quality of family life. And as the aphorism states: As the family goes; so does the Church and Society.
In view of the examples of obedient Faith highlighted in today’s Scripture readings; and our awareness of the interconnected challenges facing Family/Church/Society; can we make individual commitments to give obedient faith a worthwhile chance in our approach to living; allowing God’s purpose to be more evident in our actions, producing a ripple effect across Families, Church Communities, and Societies?
Let us pray:
Almighty Father, Your Son taught us to pray:
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven!
Grant parents the grace, to know, understand, and do your will
as Abraham, Sarah, Joseph and Mary did!
So that grounded on obedient faith,
our families will give new life to Church and Society!
In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen!