Reflections for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:
The words of eternal life, which Jesus gave to his disciples, included the teaching on marriage and the family. Jesus’ teaching allows us to distinguish three basic stages in God’s plan for marriage and the family. In the beginning, there is the original family, when God the Creator instituted the first marriage between Adam and Eve as the solid foundation of the family. God not only created human beings male and female (Gen 1:27), but he also blessed them so they might be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). For this reason, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and the two become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This union was wounded by sin and became the historical form of marriage among the People of God, for which Moses granted the possibility of issuing a bill of divorce (cf. Dt 24:1ff.). This was the principal practice in the time of Jesus. With Christ’s coming and his reconciling a fallen world through his redemption, the period begun by Moses ended.
Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself, restored marriage and the family to their original form (Mk 10:1-12). Marriage and the family have been redeemed by Christ (Eph 5:21-32), restored in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love flows. The spousal covenant, originating in creation and revealed in the history of salvation, receives its full meaning in Christ and his Church. Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion. The Gospel of the Family spans the history of the world from the creation of man in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1: 26-27) until it reaches, at the end of time, its fulfillment in the mystery of the Christ’s Covenant with the wedding of Lamb (cf. Rev. 19:9) (cf. John Paul II, Catechesis on Human Love).
Throughout the centuries, the Church has maintained her constant teaching on marriage and family. One of the highest expressions of this teaching was proposed by the Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral ConstitutionGaudium et Spes, which devotes an entire chapter to promoting the dignity of marriage and the family (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 47-52). This document defined marriage as a community of life and love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48), placing love at the center of the family and manifesting, at the same time, the truth of this love in counter distinction to the various forms of reductionism present in contemporary culture. The ‘true love between husband and wife’ (Gaudium et Spes, 49) implies a mutual gift of self and includes and integrates the sexual and affective aspects, according to the divine plan (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48-49). Furthermore, Gaudium et Spes, 48, emphasizes the grounding of the spouses in Christ. Christ the Lord ‘comes into the lives of married Christians through the Sacrament of Matrimony’ and remains with them. In the Incarnation, he assumes human love, purifies it and brings it to fulfillment and gives to the spouses, with his Spirit, the capacity to live that love, permeating every part of their lives of faith, hope and charity. In this way, the bride and groom are, so to speak, consecrated and, through his grace, they build up the Body of Christ and are a domestic church (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), so that the Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way” (Instrumentum Laboris, 4).
…Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Lumen Fidei, treating the connection between the family and faith, writes: ‘Encountering Christ, letting themselves (young people) be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness’ (Lumen Fidei, 53)” (Instrumentum Laboris, 7).
Mutual self-giving in the Sacrament of Marriage is grounded in the grace of Baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promises a total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The married couple recognizes these elements as constitutive in marriage, gifts offered to them by God, taking seriously their mutual commitment, in God’s name and in the presence of the Church. So, in faith it is possible to assume the goods of marriage as commitments which are more sustainable through the help of the grace of the Sacrament. God consecrates the love of husband and wife and confirms its indissolubility, offering them assistance to live their faithfulness, mutual complementarity and openness to life. Therefore, the Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn, looks to Jesus.
-from The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Light of Evangelization, closing reflections of the 2014 Synod, preparing for the 2015 Synod on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World