Friday, August 03, 2007

Faith and family dynamics

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” As Christ himself experienced, it is hard to be a prophet among family and close friends. They have seen us in so many situations when we weren’t being prophets that they have great trouble seeing us in this (new) role. Also, family members share a great familiarity with one another and relate on so many human levels. When one of us introduces something unfamiliar, especially of a heavenly nature, it is often met with incredulity: “Is he not the carpenter’s son?...And they took offense at him.” For us this normally comes in the form of, “who are you to preach to me? I remember when you weren’t 'holier-than-thou'”.

Kelly wrote about this phenomenon regarding family members in response to the following comment from an anonymous blogger: “’Maybe it's time for me to give it up to God and just pray for them. Family dynamics are tough, especially when both love and hurt are present.’ Thanks, anon, for the above comment. A good reminder for me to let go and pray for them more often. They are all adults and fully aware of their choices. St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words. That one just came back to me (I guess God has to send a few reminders). Family - Oh they are great for humility sometimes! My brothers like to remind me of every thing I said and did as a teen. LOL.”

I think it’s the point that they are “fully aware of their choices” that gets many of us “in trouble” with family members when it comes to talking about faith and morals. If we really believe that they know fully what they are choosing to do or not do, then I think we will back off and just pray for them. But, we try to talk to them because we don’t think they fully know. We try to teach them about Christ and His Gospel more fully. We might think, ‘how can choose to not go to Mass on Sundays? It must be that they do not know the importance of the Mass and receiving the Eucharist. It must be that they haven’t really heard John 6 or had the teaching on transubstantiation explained to them. I need to tell them.”

This all might be true with some of our family members or close friends. But, what Jesus is saying is that we are most likely NOT the ones to teach them. They won’t hear us as they would hear someone else who is less familiar. They see and hear us primarily as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, best friends, etc. They see others in their proper roles: priests, teachers, prophets, etc. They will be more inclined to HEAR the Gospel message from someone with whom they are not as familiar. In other words, they will focusing more on the message than the messenger. The people in Christ’s hometown dwelt on who was speaking, not what was being said.

Yes, all the people around us need to hear the fullness of the Gospel. Yes, they are all called by God to experience the fullness of His love on Earth in the Catholic Church. So, if we can’t help them (most likely) through what we say, then what can we do to help them? “St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words.” This is exactly the point: to preach and teach by our example. If we are doing our best to authentically live the Gospel, then even our family members will take notice. It will be attractive to all if we are being Christ-like in radical ways. If we are living examples of compassion, forgiveness, patience, wisdom, joy, peace, kindness, and love, then that will truly help them to come to Christ in ways that words will not. They will ultimately think what Jesus’ friends asked, “Where did this man get all this?” And, it won’t be too long until they see that we ‘get all this’ from the Eucharist.


At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“’I remember when you weren’t 'holier-than-thou'”.

That made me chuckle! My response is that I remember too, and now I’ve got a lot of ground to make-up.

Regarding the ways in which I worship, my actions have been questioned/criticized by family and friends. I’ve felt hopeless to describe the sense of peace I experience in receiving the Eucharist- like, no matter what else is going on in my life, in that moment, it was the perfect thing. I can’t adequately explain why one hour of Adoration each Friday is something to which I look forward. I’m fortunate that, with regard to one particular relationship, someone else spoke a little on this on my behalf. My family member understood more from this brief exchange than from my many months of actions and words. So, I think FG’s post is dead on about family members hearing us.

Most of us were raised in Christian environments where our families knew something about the teachings of Christ. When some close to me have “rejected” the teachings or poked fun at me (or directly called me names), I didn’t see that, maybe, because they DID understand those teachings and knew that their actions and inactions were “rejection,” that my words and actions in support of my beliefs was potentially received as criticism. To those people, I no longer speak my beliefs and I don’t try to defend them. I simply live my life committed to my values in the best way I can. I do believe that, in and of itself, will bear the most fruit in those relationships- it has also, surprisingly, been a big weight off!


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