On the second Sunday in the month of October, the Polish National Catholic Church pauses during the cycle of the Ordinary Time Sunday readings to celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family. This Solemnity began with the Third General Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church in 1914 when Bishop Hodur and the Synod delegates sought to honor in a special way the virtues and values of the Holy Family and extend them to our own families in the life of the Church.
Although this Solemnity might seem to be a break within the structure of the Ordinary Time weeks, within this year, the Solemnity of the Christian Family serves to complement in a wonderful way what the Church has been presenting to us over the past number of Sundays. During these past many weeks we have been dealing with the issues of what exactly does it mean to have faith and also how exactly are we to live that life of faith.
If we think back to a few weeks ago we heard from St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus confronts the disciples about their argument while they were traveling. After hearing the prediction of the Passion and Death of our Lord, they totally ignored this and then went on to begin arguing about which one of them was the most important. Our Lord confronts them with the teaching, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b) Jesus shows the apostles, and also us, that first and foremost the way of faith and life of faith is one of service and sacrifice for others.
In the next Sunday’s Gospel Jesus confronts the disciples with a teaching regarding the radical confrontation of sinful ways. He tells the disciples, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out, it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell.” (Mark 9:43-47) While we know that Jesus is not advocating here the maiming of our bodies, He certainly speaks to the extreme seriousness of sin and that we must go to great lengths to remove it from our lives. He reminds us to be careful with our hands that might do works of evil, our feet which carry us to places of temptation and our eyes which may lead us to view paths of evil. This passage reminds us that the way of faith and the life of faith is one of striving to keep ourselves pure by following our Lord and being united with Him.
The Gospel passage of the 27th Sunday speaks to the teaching of the law on divorce and whether or not it is allowed. While we certainly know that God intends marriage to be a life-long union of a man and a woman, the issue raised here is one that can show itself within our life of faith quite often. The Pharisees are asking Jesus concerning their “rights” as followers of God. In Jesus’ reply we see that He says to them that they are really not focused in the right direction. In our way of faith and life of faith we must seek to adhere to God’s intentions for us rather than to insist on our own rights and wants.
And now looking at the celebration of the Solemnity of the Christian Family, we can ask ourselves where do these aspects of living the Christian faith most commonly occur? Where are they first learned? Where are they nurtured by daily living the virtues of the Christian faith? Where to they find a daily actualization? It is most certainly within the Christian Family.
As we approach an understanding of the Christian Family, we must not get lost in any aspect of trying to define what is the perfect, or most expected type of family. We know that there are a variety of families. Some are raised with a mother and father together with a number of brothers and sisters, or possibly just an only child; some families have only one parent or guardian with children. There are also groups of individuals who might not be related in such a close way, but still live a life of love and faith which passes on the traditional Catholic teachings, Catholic life, faith and virtues. Each of these then are a manifestation of the Christian family.
And of course, we must not forget that the Christian family is also the family of faith that we each belong to as a part of our larger parish family. This is why it is vital that we each join together with the local parish where we will worship God together, receive Him together in His Word and the Holy Eucharist and also serve as living examples of faith for each other within the Body of Christ that is the local parish church. This too is a Christian Family where each of us is loved, supported and taught the ways of faith and love within our world.
In fact, it is within the parish that we accomplish an important part of what we pray for in the Opening Prayer of the Solemnity of the Christian Family. During that Mass we pray, “Open our eyes to recognize in all people the bonds of kinship.” As we pray this, we see that first, the bonds of kinship are already a part of who we are as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, and then it is through our parish life of faith and love that we can begin to recognize them and, more importantly, to act upon them in helping and loving each other.
As we have now celebrated the Solemnity of the Christian Family, I encourage each and every one of you, as members of our Holy Church, to now strive to hear and internalize the words of the prayer of that day and to pray them often seeking to put the words of that prayer into action.
God, our Heavenly Father, You have blessed each of us with the gift of family that through our family life we may learn to love and care for others. Open our eyes to recognize in all people the bonds of kinship. May we unselfishly serve them who with us have been made co-heirs with Christ. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
If we truly seek to live a life of faith and loyalty to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; if we desire to live our own lives within the family of faith, recognizing that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, then let us not only recognize but cherish and extend those bonds of kinship among each other as we invite others to join us in the worship and work of God in our midst.
St. Paul, in speaking to the Church in Galatia about their responsibilities to each other and their work of the Christian faith, told them, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
So my dear brothers and sisters, let us not grow weary in doing good things for the family of faith, our own families and the parish family. Let us continue to do right and good that we may be examples one for another. Let us, with every opportunity, be servants of one another and of Jesus, so that we may one day hear those words which proclaim us as Jesus’ family. “Jesus replied, ‘Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?’ And pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12:48b-50)