A SERMON DELIVERED BY ARCHBISHOP ALFRED ADEWALE MARTINS ON THE INAUGURATION OF THE LAGOS ARCHDIOCESAN YEAR OF THE FAMILY ON FEBRUARY 27, 2014. THEME: THE FAMILY AS A DOMESTIC CHURCH
In the name of the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, the second Person of the Family of the Holy Trinity; He who became the Holy Child of the Holy Family of Nazareth, I greet you all of you dear brothers and sisters, members of the Family of God in the Archdiocese of Lagos. May the Lord bless you all and grant us a fulfilling celebration. As we gather to begin our Archdiocesan Year of the Family, we cannot but rejoice in our good fortune of belonging to this family, the Family of the Church built on the rock of St. Peter. We rejoice also in the gift of the different families into which we have been born and bred. May God bless all families, through Christ our Lord.
The family is the basic unit of society and the Church. It is in the family that children first learn how to communicate and relate. It is in the family that they learn what is good and what is bad. It is in the family that children learn what love is and how to love. It is in the family that they first learn to forgive and to pray. It is in the family that as children, we first learn about God and Jesus and Our Lady and the saints. It is in the family that we learn to value ourselves and understand the value in everything else aswe pick them up from what is said and unsaid by our parents. Our families form us for life as we grow into the future. Indeed, the future of humanity depends on the family because it is through a family that we all come.
Hence, we begin this year today with the intention that during the year we shall identify afresh and highlight very clearly the values of Catholic Christian family. We shall then make a commitment to Christ and His Church to live by those values. My dear friends, we are called to holiness of life, love of Christ and commitment to his teachings; we are called to love of the Church and proclamation of the Good news; we are to living lives that bear witness to the faith we profess, obedience to the will of God and commitment to the welfare of one another. All of these are to be taught and practised within the family. It is for this reason that we are called upon to spend this year reflecting on the implications of these values for our daily lives as members of the families to which we belong. Let us remember, brothers and sisters, that it is only in living these values that we have a hope of making it to heaven. May none of us be left out of the banquet hall in the company of the Lord when he comes again.
As a people guided by the word of God in the Bible and tradition that is confirmed by the Scriptures, we see that the one family that stands out for us as a perfect example of a good and holy family is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this Year of the Family, that family becomes for us a model of all families, the family to look at and follow the way they dealt with issues of family that arise in their lives. We see in them a number of values that we must strive towards during this year. That is why our slogan for this year is: Jesus, Mary and Joseph; make our families like unto thine.
Hence like the Holy Family, our families must be built on the foundation of faith in God, readiness to obey his will and follow wherever his will leads us. Unconditional love must be the rule and guide in relationships within the family. Each of our families must also be that in which every family member feels a sense of belonging, each member must be made to feel that they matter. In each family there must be mutual respect such that the feelings, desires, needs and preferences of each member is taken into consideration in making decisions. There must be honesty in the relationships within each family such that each person is to be open, open to correction and ready to accept them in love. Each family is called upon to allow forgiveness to be part of the fabric that weaves the members together. Never hold a grudge but be readyto forgive whenever each member of the family goes wrong. Readiness to communicate feelings and fears as well being able to talk through issues make the family to be bonded. Members of the different families must be willing to give to one another with generosity, never first counting what is there for them to gain. Each member of our families must be responsible for the other, each one doing something to add to the complete welfare of everyone else. Father, mother and children must be ready to play roles that are peculiar to them or are expected of them. In all of these, love of one another
Having re-stated the values to which families must rededicate themselves during this year, we cannot but call attention to the many attempts in our days to re-define the family in ways that do not reflect God’s plan for the family and therefore obscure the true value of the family and in so doing attempt to destroy the family in our times. This Year of the Family avails us the opportunity to resist these attempts and work to salvage the Christian family.
We are aware of the aggressive attempts to define marriage in a way that includes gay and lesbian relationships such that we even have countries that have legalized so-called gay marriage. In our time, the idea of marriage as a commitment to life-long relationship is being undermined by the so-called pre-nuptial contract in which couples determine even before they exchange vows what will come to each other if and when they divorce each other. In these days, we have trial marriages that exclude commitment until for example, the woman is able to get pregnant or the man is able to provide all the luxuries that she wants. In our days, we have couples just living together without the intention of getting married with the excuse that if they get married they will lose the urge to put in the efforts required to keep the relationship going or else that they will soon begin to expect too much from each other and so begin restrict the freedom each other.
Attempts to resist such influences particularly of gay-marriage have led to the so-called anti-gay bills in a number of African countries in particular. We take it that such laws are meant to resist the incursion of these obnoxious disvalues into our cultural settings and perhaps to help those engaged in it to reform themselves. However, we must not fail to reiterate that just like Christ our Lord and master, while we hate the sin, we must not hate the sinner. In other words, while we condemn homosexual activities as being contrary to God’s will for us, we must keep on urging those concerned to change their ways but we must never chip anything away from their dignities as human beings. That is why lynching of those suspected to be engaged in the acts is not an option. We must not forget that the commandment of God says: thou shall not kill.
However, we know that family values are threatened not only by these influences mentioned above but also by sin. Sin as we know from the Bible, made its entrance into the world in the first human family of Adam and Eve when they attempted to be like God. This is so much as we have today when some families behave as if God does not matter and so he does not have any relevance in the way they run their lives, he has no place in decisions that they make.The children of the first human family Cain and Abel recorded the first recorded act of domestic violence, an evil that is still happening in our world and probably among us here. Only recently, we read of the man who was condemned to death because he was found guilty of such aggravated domestic violence that led to the death of his banker wife. In the family of Noah, we saw the evil that drunkenness can cause in the family; we see incest at play and the evil of other sexual offences.
Is it not the case that in our days, we also have situations in which alcoholism is tearing families apart, incest is making the fathers of young girls become not only their fathers but also fathers to their own daughters children, as well as grandfathers to the children because they abuse the girls and put them in the family way. We can identify other sins that threaten human family associated with the widespread availability of pornographic materials of all kindsat every twist and turn on the internet. I believe that must be partly responsible for the manyother sexual offences such as gang rape and rising number of cases of rape even of infants, babies and children. Families must take the initiative of schooling the young ones on avoiding pornography by not only teaching them but also not using them. Sibling rivalry was present in the family of Isaac between Jacob and Esau and among the children of Jacob such that they sold their brother, Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Sibling rivalry is still plaguing the human family today with court cases over issues of inheritance even going as far as assassination of one another. Chinua Achebe in his classic work, The Arrow of God, said “when two brothers fight, a stranger inherits their property, and when two brothers fight a stranger reaps the harvest and when they fight themselves to death, a stranger inherits their father’s property.” My dear friends, in this Year of the Family, we pray and urge reconciliation upon all warring parties in our families. We earnestly implore upon you with the words of St. Paul: “Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding” (Rm. 14:19).
As it was with David, we see what harm marital infidelity can bring to families. It puts a strain on everyone and is capable of making marriages to crash. However, we saw how David repented and was therefore restored to favour with God. The Year of the Family calls for self-examination such that wherever there is infidelity, those concerned would repent and change their ways so that they can be restored to good relationship with God.
We know,as it was with the family of Job, that sickness, poverty, lack of job opportunities and outright unemployment, childlessness or death in the family can cause strains in families. In this Year of the Family, we pray the Lord to save us from such calamities. However, it is part of the human reality that sometimes they do occur. So the Lord calls us all to exercise the virtues of compassion, patience, tolerance and commitment to higher values such that in spite of such pains, our families will still be holy and united.
How do Catholic families,particularly in this Year of the Family, stay focused on Christ and keep up the values of family life. They should look up to the Holy Family of Nazareth. We must in the course of this year reflect on their lives, the way they managed to deal with issues in their own lives and follow their example in tackling our own issues. That family also had its own moments of challenge, troubles, disappointments as well as sadness and temptation but they were able to stand firm because of faith in God, love of one another and willingness to do the right thing. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love (cf. Rom 13: 10). He learnt from them that it is necessary first of all to do God's will, and that spiritual bond is worth more than the bond of kinship.Parents must daily consider the example of faith they give to their children. Does daily prayer occur in the home? How can children be expected to know how to pray unless they learn it first from their parents? How can they be expected to know the Lord unless introduced to him by their parents? This, of course, requires that parents be of deep faith and prayer, looking always to the example of Joseph and Mary.
Let me conclude this sermon by quoting Dorothy Law Nolte says:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
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