Continuing his catechesis on the importance of the family, Pope Francis’ latest audience is on the role families play in evangelization. Whenever we think about evangelizing, we tend to think of it as something individuals do. We seldom pay attention to the role families have in this critical process.
The first and most important role the family plays in evangelization is that of formation. Through the family we come to understand the “grammar” of God. We learn how to speak to Him, and we learn how He speaks to us through the family.
We learn to understand God as Father through our own fathers. We understand His love in parental terms because of the examples of our parents. When we look at the modern world today, the examples of parents are poor. Is it any wonder the modern concept of God is equally poor?
Another role the family plays is that of being a witness to society. In American terms, we often hear of “witnessing” and associate that with the street preacher or door to door evangelist giving the Gospel. While this is an important part of being a witness, there are times when our presence alone is a powerful tool to evangelize. This is what families do in society.
When one sees a family together in public, they are a sign to the world of something. Are they a sign of love, comfort, and unity? Or are they the people bickering? Are they separate individuals flipping through their phones?
What’s the message we send? By the family being a family in public, we tell people that family life is possible. In the West, marriage is in retreat. Family life is in retreat. The Pope spoke about the “desertification” of the modern city, but that could just as easily be applied to all of society.
Society has become a barren wasteland in the sense that the world is barren of authentic family love. For many, if the Christian family is a good thing, it’s just an ideal. The Pope wants us to be a family in society to help show people it is more than an ideal, it is real and it is something magical.
A third way the family evangelizes society is by also evangelizing the Church. We are often so focused on evangelizing the world, we forget that the members of the Church need to be reminded to put the gospel into effect in their lives.
Families are first and foremost a place of acceptance. Heinous deeds might cut you off from various ties in civil and public life, but they cannot sever family ties.
That is what the Church is called to do. There are a lot of people who have committed some pretty grave sins in life, and many of them, through their actions, have been cut off from many facets of their life. The Church has to bring them in and tell them they are welcome. In addition to telling them they are welcome, like a good family, we have to help the fallen rise up.
In addition to many other things, I would say the Sacrament of Confession is the sacrament of family. Through the sacrament any bond that is damaged is repaired and strengthened. Just as a family that survives a crisis finds a resolve that did not exist before, so the sinner finds a resolve towards holiness they didn’t realize they had when they leave the confessional.
Remember these things the next time you are out with your family. Whether or not you are aware of it, your actions as a family can help restore “the direction of the world to the covenant of man and woman with God”, or it can help further push the world away from God. The choice is ours.