The Joy of Love in the Family - Fifth Sunday of Easter (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The Joy of Love in the Family - Fifth Sunday of Easter (C)

When people are asked about the key message of Christ, they are inevitably drawn to teaching which we find in the Gospel today: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another”. This teaching of the Lord is seen as capturing the defining quality of the Christian life. Indeed, the Lord adds that it is by this love that “everyone will know that you are my disciples”.

Christians down through the centuries have taken this teaching to heart. The Church is known for its constant dedication to reach out in love, particularly to those in need. It was the Church that was at the forefront in providing hospital care, education for the masses, and the alleviation of poverty. The Church’s history is dotted with examples of saints whose whole lives radiated this command of the Lord.

In his recent document on marriage, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis devotes an entire chapter to a reflection on the nature of love in marriage and family. He bases his reflection on the well-known passage of St Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. We know it well: “Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, and so on”. It is invariably the choice of couples for the reading at their wedding. And rightly so for it speaks of what true Christian love should look like.

The Pope in the post synodal document takes each phrase of St Paul’s teaching and explores its meaning for marriage and family. In down-to-earth teaching he fleshes out how these qualities of love can be expressed in daily family life. He has some real gems that are worthy of a time for personal reflection.

For example in speaking of “love is always patient”, he says, “We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the centre and expect things to turn out our way”. He says, “then everything makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively”.

Now maybe I should make a comment here. This is not the time to think of my spouse and be saying quietly to myself, “I hope he/she is listening to this”. No, this is the time for each of us to consider our own attitudes and behaviours.

In speaking about love being never jealous, the Pope makes the insightful comment: “Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own wellbeing”. Again, food for thought. He says that “true love values the other’s achievements”, and “frees us from the sour taste of envy”.

In speaking about love not being rude the Pope comments that love by its nature is gentle and thoughtful. He then mentions the virtue of courtesy. He says, “Courtesy is a school of sensitivity and disinterestedness which requires a person to develop his or her mind and feelings, to learn how to listen, to speak and, at certain times to keep quiet”. He goes on to comment, “to be open to an genuine encounter with others a kind look is essential”.

This “kind look”, he says, builds bonds and cultivates relationships. This attitude then enables a person to speak words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement.

When speaking about love not being irritable, Pope Francis speaks about the experience of hidden irritation that, he says, “sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they are troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided”. Such interior hostility he says “helps no one”.

Quoting from several other Scripture passages, the Pope says that our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, “asking God to bless, free and heal that person”. He comments, “My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family”.

There is so much more that could be explored in this deeply human reflection on how to make love real in day to day life.

But I would like to mention one final point from the Pope’s teaching. This is the one which says that love is always ready to forgive. In speaking of the important of forgiveness in family life the Pope says, “There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion”. He comments that “when we have been offended or let down, forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say it is easy”. He then adds, “The truth is that family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness to each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation”.

Forgiveness is a key to the preservation of a loving environment in the family.

So we return to the teaching of the Lord in today’s Gospel: love one another. This is to be the distinguishing quality of his disciples. For all of us the first place where this is to be expressed is in the family.

Pope Francis says that love in marriage and in the family is “the icon of God’s love for us”.

Today we think about our own families. We think about the quality of relationships within our families. We examine ourselves as to how effectively we can be instruments of love within our own families.

In a prayer that ends the document Pope Francis prays,

Jesus, Mary and Joseph
In you we contemplate
The splendour of true love.
To you we turn in trust

Holy Family of Nazareth.
Grant that our own families too
May be places of communion and prayer;
Authentic schools of the Gospel
And small domestic churches.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 23 April 2016