At the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis spoke to the large crowd present: “A child once asked me – and you know that kids ask difficult questions, ‘Father, what was God doing before He created the world?’”
“I can assure you, I found it really hard to answer the question. After a moment of reflection I told him, ‘Before creating the world, God loved.’”
He continued, “You know what God loves most? To knock on the door of families and to find those who love each other – families who bring up their children to grow and to move forward; who create, who develop a society of truth, goodness and beauty. The most beautiful thing that God made is family.”
That is why family becomes a place where forgiveness is practiced, where care for others is born, where prayer is learned, where the Good News is lived. At the same time family life can be hard going, encountering various problems. In this context, how should the Church respond to the families in their difficulties?
Pope himself answered this question at his concluding speech of the 2015 Synod of bishops, on family: “Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see …these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, without burying our heads in the sand.”
“It was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.”
”It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.”
“The Synod also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness.”
”The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (Jn 12:44-50).”
Pastoral care of families consists in blessing families with the same heart of Christ and winding up their wounds with love and compassion. In order to do this, pastors should always remember the bare truth – that they too are wounded healers. Yes all of us are fallible followers of Christ.
Dr. Jacob Naluparayil