We live in an age that stresses personal goals, careers, happiness, work and religion. The emphasis is on the individual and how best that individual can satisfy himself. There are as many degrees and types of living, ideals and morals as there are people. Since one of the common denominators is freedom to do as one pleases, there is very little to contrast. To this way of thinking, everyone is free to be and do whatever he pleases without causing anyone any harm. This state of animated blahs perpetuates only darkness, for light is kindled by a clash of ideas, from strong concepts of right and wrong, from leaders who are fearless and stand tall on the side of justice.
We do not find choices between good and evil thrust upon us today—only the confusion of half-truths, blatant evil disguised as part of modern living, and an indifference to sin called "tolerance" and "love." Self-satisfaction at everyone else's expense is considered a kind of fulfillment and any reaction to the contrary is an infringement on personal freedom.
Married life has become to many a necessary burden, but a burden that is shed very easily. Faithfulness has become merely a biblical term no longer relevant or possible in an age of modern enlightenment. Adultery and fornication have passed from unfaithfulness and sin to an inability to love only one person and the fulfilment of one's basic needs. Children who are to be the fruit of love are considered mere accidents, financial burdens, consumers of the world's food supply, an infringement on personal freedom to utilize untapped talents which are destined to be forever buried. This, alas, is the thinking of the minority to the dismay of the disheartened majority.
Not every family, suffers from all these evils. But perhaps it is safe to say that we are all tainted in some way with their effects. What can we do to correct these ills? Where do we start? Do we run away and hide in some remote area or will that hopeless spirit follow us wherever we go? Do we band together for mutual up-building and protection? What happens to the rest of mankind if we retreat? Are the problems facing us so gigantic that we are forced to stand still as we wait for the final blow? Do Christians form minority groups for protection, growth and perseverance?
Perhaps we should look at the Gospels to see what Jesus had to say. Whatever we find must be applicable to every form of Family Living, to Christians and non-Christians for we all share the same Father—we are all the work of His Hands. We must also keep in mind that the Family Spirit concept is at the core of every Christian and the goal of every person who seeks happiness and goodness in this life.
A family spirit is not always synonymous with family life. Bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh makes for brothers, sisters and relatives, who may be as distant as strangers in a foreign land. The world will always be blest with families or it will become extinct. It is not always blest with a family spirit in the midst of its families. The result is that every facet of daily life is affected with selfishness, indifference, lack of respect, cruelty and coldness.
The Family is at the root of all society and the Family Spirit is a special quality that feeds the Family with vigor and vitality. When that spirit is present, there is a desire to cling together in time of crisis, to sacrifice in time of need and strength to face the demands of communal living.
The spirit of a family relationship affects our entire lives and we have suffered from the lack of that spirit on the communal, parish and national level. In neighborhoods there is fear of murder and robbery. Over the fence chit-chat is non-existent for the "personal living" concept has made us disinterested in our neighbor's welfare. We fear his burden will become ours and we are little concerned with his heartache, loneliness or suffering. The aged become merely another obstacle to surmount. Each home is only a house in which individuals live—alone together—in miniature motels. Neighbors are competitors instead of partners, suspicious instead of trustful, indifferent instead of helpful, cold instead of loving, greedy instead of generous. We no longer consider ourselves living in neighborhoods, but only as living next to "hoods." We live in wealthy, middle class or poor sections of a city, rather than communities of people living together for mutual growth.
As the individual family lives, so lives the immediate community, the parish, the city and state, the nation and the world. A countryside is ugly or beautiful according to the tiny seeds sown in abundance. From weeds come shocking overgrowth that is neither appearing nor inspiring but from selected seeds, cared for and pruned during growth, come trees to delight the eye and fruit to nourish the body. Let us see what is lacking in our family living and its various aspects—why it is unsightly and distressing—why it has sunk to such depths in so short a time. Do the Gospels tell us what we can or cannot do? If so, let us look deeply to see if there is any solution to such a problem.
First, we know a few things we cannot do and one of them is, we cannot run away. "I am not asking you to remove them from the world but to protect them from the evil one." (Jn. 17:16) We are to change the world, transform it as we are transformed, renew its spirit as ours is renewed, and we are to do this in the midst of the wickedness in the world. "They do not belong to the world," He prayed to the Father, "anymore than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Every Christian has been filled with God and then sent into the world to bring that Lord and Savior to it. The Holy Spirit within Christians flows out of those Christians, touching the lives of everyone around them.
Jesus explained what would happen when that Spirit began to live in the soul and the soul live in the Spirit. A union with God would result—a union so powerful—so simple and so sublime that no one could come within its proximity and not be affected by it.
"With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me, Father." (Jn. 17:23) The Trinity—three Persons in one God—is a community—a family. God is love and that love extends Itself in the Christian and in turn, must extend Itself to the world—the Family in the Trinity and the Trinity in the Family.
Jesus gives us the reason for this—"so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and so that I may be in them." It is an awesome reality—a terrible responsibility—the Christian possesses in his soul, through the Holy Spirit, the same kind of love with which the Father loves the Son! Since we are made in His image, possess His Spirit and are filled with His love, this creates within the soul a family spirit—a concern for others—a desire to diffuse goodness—a capacity to love—a new strength to sacrifice—an ability to bear fruit a hundred-fold.
Within the individual soul there is the Family of Persons—a need to share, to give, to radiate, to express concern. There is no longer an isolated individual, seeking self alone, but a togetherness—the soul and the Trinity—one in will, in purpose, in love.
"On that day you will understand," Jesus told the Apostles, "that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you." (Jn. 14:20) This dependence of the soul on God for its life, breath and joy creates a need to give as one is given. As the soul feels itself being filled, it desires to give itself to others in the same unselfish way it is receiving from God its Father. Family Spirit is born within the soul and that Spirit extends itself to everyone, everywhere, in every facet of everyday life. A constant source of unending love is poured forth from the soul and God together. A spark is kindled within cold hearts, harmony restored where dissension once reigned, faith where cynicism and unbelief were masters.
How true are the words Jesus spoke to us when He said, "Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty." (Jn. 15:5) We were created in His Image and that image is not only in our intellectual faculties, but in the harmony of the life of the Trinity. Sin destroyed that harmony. Man decided to stand alone—outside the influence of the Trinity—the Three in one God.
The more man rebelled, the further away he went from harmony and family spirit. No matter how hard he tried, man and God were on a Creator-creature basis—servant of the Great Yahweh. But the Father sent His Son and when the "Word was made flesh and dwelt among us"—when He died and rose; He bestowed on us the gift of gifts—an opportunity to be part of God's family. Jesus, our brother, God our Father, the Spirit our Indweller.
"I shall not call you servants any more," Jesus said, "because a servant does not know his master's business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father." (Jn. 15:15) "Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50) Doing the Father's Will is to be a child of the Father. The Spirit of Jesus in us inspires, leads and bestows a greater participation in the very Nature of God every time we choose His Will over ours, every time we prefer our Family of Persons (the Trinity) to ourselves. This constant giving and receiving on the part of God and the soul is at the core of the family spirit within us. As we habituate ourselves to this type of Family living we spread this spirit to others. As God is the initiator of goodness in our regard, we become the initiators of goodness in the lives of others. As God loves us because He is good, so we love our neighbor out of that infinite source of goodness within us.
We are able then to be self-effacing, prefer the good of others to ourselves, do good to those who persecute us and forgive seventy-times seven. We can truly be compassionate as our Father is compassionate and merciful as He is merciful because our family life with the Trinity has enabled us to love in the same way God loves.
Family living has also suffered on a Parish level. It is a place in which we are baptized, confirmed, taught, cleansed, married and buried. The Parish can become the family "batter board." Because it represents God, we blame it when things go wrong, criticize it when it does not share our opinions, and condemn it when it falters. The result can be a parish that houses factions, referees dissensions and spends precious time merely keeping the boat from capsizing. There is no progress forward to give courage, or digression backward to signal danger. Families become statistics, wage-earners categorized as givers or non-givers, workers or non-workers. Shepherd and sheep end up matching wits to survive.
Family living on the national level is shaky and uncertain. Leaders are mistrusted, political office has become synonymous with cheating, bribery and lies. Sinful enterprises are condoned under the guise of freedom. Abortion and euthanasia are mere debates over heated questions. Political pressure rather than a deep desire for the right to life, ultimately decides the answer, formulates laws and rationalizes sin. Fear of the decisions of those in office creates a cold war between governments and the citizens of those governments. The integrity, honesty, justice and wisdom of those in office are held in question and then it is that both faith and hope in the nation waver. Love grows cold and with it loyalty.
The Religious Family has also suffered in this day of enlightenment. The security of that life is uncertain. Religious no longer feel bound together by the ties of the vows and mutual commitment. There is a new freedom that fills the soul with the cold chill of indifference to each other, to the aged and sick members, to the apostolate and to retirement. Disappointment and heartache dig deep into some hearts while others fear the future of the order they loved so dearly. Confusion over priorities and values causes dissension, and complicated solutions produce burdens too heavy to carry. The constant changing of theological views and opinions shake whatever semblance of stability remains. Vocations begin to waver. Hard-hearted rebellion against good changes or necessary modifications causes untold harm. The religious family loses togetherness and the sense of belonging.
The Family Spirit in our souls will result in ennobling and building up the family spirit in our life at home, in our community, in our parish and nation. In proportion as we are alienated from the family spirit in our soul, in that degree we are at enmity with our brother. Our relationship with our neighbor will be either close, distant or indifferent. Only when we live within the warmth of God's unselfish love can we invite others to come in from the cold.
Nations do not fall except when families have ceased to live in a family spirit. It is also true that members of families are not alienated from each other except when each member decides to stand alone outside of God's family. Since he was made in that Image, only by living and growing in that Image can he possibly bear the fruit of harmony and unity.
"I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty." (Jn. 15:5)
We see the emergence of this family spirit immediately after Pentecost. Before Pentecost the Apostles and disciples were individuals called together to do a work. When the test came at the crucifixion, each ran his own way. After the Resurrection and Ascension they stayed together, but more out of fear than love.
When they received the Spirit of Jesus into their very souls, they became family—brothers. There was an invisible bond between them that neither trial, persecution, personality clashes or differences of opinions could diminish. Deep in the heart of each one that possessed the Holy Spirit, the goal was the imitation of Jesus. This oneness of heart made them one in mind. They saw God in everything that happened to them, depended upon Him for everything they needed and prayed to Him for each other. The personality clashes that disturbed and caused dissension before, now became only opportunities to die to self, be understanding, and imitate Jesus. They treated all men as brothers and that is why St. Peter could say, "For the sake of the Lord, accept the authority of every social institution... God wants you to be good citizens. Have respect for everyone and love the community; fear God and honour the emperor." (1 Peter 2:14, 15)The Family Spirit, among the first Christians touched the whole world and it was that spirit of togetherness, love and respect that witnessed to the world that Jesus was Lord Messiah.
Oh, Holy Trinity, let me live within You that we may share and speak as friend speaks to friend. Let our union of mind and heart, through the power of Your Spirit, enable me to live as one with You. Let the power of that union touch the hearts of everyone around me so all may share in our harmony together in Your Spirit. Let my family, community, parish and nation live within and grow in this family spirit so the world may know Jesus is Lord and that Your love embraces all mankind. Amen. So be it.
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