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To Grow Our Christian Family — The XXV General Synod

As we find ourselves in the middle of the month of October we have just completed the celebration of the Solemnity of the Christian Family.  Within that celebration we read the Gospel from St. Luke when Jesus was a child of twelve at the temple.  When the Holy Family went together to Jerusalem to attend the feast of Passover, Jesus stayed behind and was found in the temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46b)  When Jesus was found by His parents who were searching for Him, Scripture tells us, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2: 51a)

Jesus here makes a priority of family life.  If we would look solely at the mission of Jesus to announce the Good News, to bring salvation through a renewed understanding of the covenant relationship between God and His people, we might think that it would have been a better thing for Jesus to have remained in Jerusalem at the temple.  He could have continued to interact with the teachers and lawyers there.  We could imagine that with this work He would have been better able to convince them later on when He began His ministry.  But surely this is only mere speculation and misses an important aspect of the ministry of Jesus, the family.

Jesus rather prioritized the most sure way in which the heart and mind can be prepared to receive the Good News.  Jesus prioritized the family.  It was within this family life that we read concerning Jesus, “He advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2:52)  Jesus reminds us here that it is within our family life that we encourage and strengthen one another.  This is an aspect which should be true for every relationship within every family.  It must be true of husbands and wives as they strive to build Christian homes and show forth an example of Christian living within our society.  It must be true of parents and children as the parents are challenged to impart the faith to the next generation and children are challenged to follow Jesus in a world which is oftentimes hostile to belief in Christ.  It must be true of brothers and sisters who seek to live out a supportive relationship as they navigate a world which increasingly isolates all individuals from each other.

Now within this framework we must also realize that our Lord desires that we extend this concept of a Christian Family ever outward.  Jesus, through the Gospel, shows us what His true family is.  In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read: “Someone told [Jesus] ‘Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with You.’  But He said in reply to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother?  Who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand towards His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers.  For whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is My brother, and sister, and mother.’” (Matthew 12:47-50)

The concept of the Christian Family then is not merely one which is based on a bloodline, although it may be that as well, rather it is based on a covenant relationship to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  It is here in which we can look at the work of the XXV General Synod, and especially it’s looking forward within the Future Direction program as the work of a Christian Family within our society.

During the time of the Synod the delegates had an opportunity to examine the Future Direction program of the past four years and strive to set a program of work for the upcoming four year Synodal period.  This work was all done within the framework of the 5 themes that were chosen in 2014.  The five themes that were chosen in 2014 and reexamined at the past Synod were: Growth and Membership, Increased Spirituality, Lifelong Learning, Sacred Vocations and Community.  As the XXV General Synod is now complete, over the next many weeks and months the Future Direction Subcommittee will be examining the data that was collected and they will set a plan and course of action for the next four years.

Now while this is of great importance to the work of the Church, each member of our Church family, in the spirituality of the Solemnity of the Christian Family, will need to take an active part and role.  But if we take a moment to examine these five themes, we can also see that these are the exact things that each of our families are all involved in at every level.

Every family must be concerned with its growth and membership.  At first we may think of the planning and preparation that comes with the birth of children and this is certainly a start, but it also goes much further.  A family may also grow as children go out into the world and enter into the covenant relationship of matrimony with others and in another way extended families or family-like relationships can be created through the cultivating of friends.  This reminds us that as we focus the attention of the Church on Growth and Membership, we are in fact seeking to incorporate others into our Christian Family.  In this regard we must desire to accept others fully and share our lives fully with them.  It’s not just a numbers game.  I have heard from so many parishes a concern that “we need parishioners.”  But we must ask in response to our seeking Growth and Membership, do we want only a large number count or are we looking to grow a family?

In many families the bonds that are shared are encouraged and strengthened by the actions that the families take together.  I certainly know that some of the most meaningful times of my childhood were the times that family spent together and the same is true of my life today in my marriage.  Now the action that is taken together as a Christian Family is the Spirituality of the Church.  We, the Church as a family, gather together to celebrate the Eucharist.  We gather to worship God in liturgical devotions and we put aside time to pray for and with one another.  As we seek to build a Christian Family, it is exactly these family actions, this spirituality, that must be increased.

In a well-functioning family there is a desire to see that each member of the family is living to his or her full potential.  And this is true not only for children in their youngest years, but for each of us at any age.  It is in this way that Lifelong Learning is a true part of our family life.  For the young this means a very structured system of school and homework, and so likewise within the Church we have catechetical and sacramental classes, but throughout life we each must find a way to continue to grow and learn.  This is a concern of the Church family as well and it is for this reason that homilies are given each Sunday and we seek opportunities to continue to learn about and deepen our faith.

In an extension of living a fully fulfilled life we also know that God still calls men within the Church to serve Him in the special way of a Sacred Vocation.  These Sacred Vocations are of great concern for the Christian family, since without them that family cannot fulfill one of its highest duties, the worship of God at the Holy Eucharist.  At earlier times it was considered a great honor to have a priest or clergyman within a family. We need to ask ourselves if this is still the case.  Do we encourage the men of our families to consider if God is calling them to a Sacred Vocation?

And lastly we know that our families cannot be insulated.  We cannot just close our doors and live only within our family homes.  We must go out into the world, to school, to work and to interact with those around us.  The same is true of the Christian family, and in a way even more so.  We are called, as a Christian family, to be a witness to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to everyone that we meet.  We must share with others the love that Jesus Christ has for us.  In order to do this well and effectively, we actually must go out to meet people.  We must have involvement and interaction with the community around us.  In doing so we witness to the presence of Jesus Christ among us and we ask others to join in our Christian family so that they may know and serve Christ along with us.

So I encourage each and every member of the Christian family that is the Church to participate fully in the work of Future Direction within the Polish
National Catholic Church.  Many programs and initiatives will be forthcoming within the P.N.C.C. and I encourage each parish, each family and each person to be a part of them.  The easiest way to get started is to make sure that you get the Future Direction emails by sending your email address to
FutureDirection@pncc.org.  Another great way is to follow the “PNCC Future Direction” Facebook page.  But let’s remember that it is not really the work of others, this work of: Growth and Membership, Increased Spirituality, Lifelong Learning, Sacred Vocations and Community Involvement; it is the work that each and every one of us must do, in a functioning and faithful Christian family.  We may already do these things in our own individual families, but let’s also make sure that they are a part of the Family of Faith, the Christian Family.

 

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