In the face of attacks on the family, the Church should strive to imitate the Holy Family, which shines through the darkness, said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay.
“In the midst of the great assaults on family values, and on the institution of the family itself, the Holy Family stands out like a bright, dazzling light,” the cardinal said in an Aug. 22 homily at the World Meeting of Families gathering in Dublin.
“The model we all look to these days is the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
Noting the day’s celebration of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, Gracias said it is fitting that the Gospel at Mass told the story of the Annunciation, because that announcement was “the most important announcement of salvation history, and in fact, of all history.”
He explained that “Mary’s ‘yes’ was the beginning of the family of Nazareth,” and invited Catholics to reflect on the two families they belong to: their own family in the home, and the spiritual family of the Church.
“To both we belong,” he emphasized. “We work hard for the growth and development of each. Both are intimately connected. In recent times, the Church has indeed had many challenges, but the Church is you and I,” he stated. “We are the Church.”
“We need to stand together with Pope Francis to strengthen the Church, to make the Church what Jesus intended it to be: a replica of the Holy Family of Nazareth. As the family is to be fruitful, so the Church is called to be fruitful, evangelizing new members,” he urged.
Recalling Pope Francis’ words in Amoris Laetitia, which called the Church “a family of families,” Gracias said the mission at the end of the global meeting is to return home “with a passion to strengthen the Church and to deepen its apostolate.”
“If the mission of the Church is to become a family,” he continued, “conversely, the mission of the family is to become more and more the Church.”
The cardinal referenced the Second Vatican Council, which said two qualities of the family are love and fruitfulness – “we need to build these today.”
He said the day’s Mass is especially for and about the family, the “domestic Church,” noting that if the Church is to be revitalized, it must begin with the family.
“When we go back to our churches, it is to see what can be done to make our families true models of faith. This is our calling, this is our apostolate,” he urged.
“Family life must be renewed if the parish is to be renewed, if the dioceses are to be renewed, if the Church is to be renewed.”
Posing a series of questions for personal reflection, he asked: “In the Church there is the constant presence of God. Is it so in our families? In the Church we have regular prayer, is it so in our families? In the Church we develop our spirituality, is it so in our families?”
“The presence of God becomes real within the rejection of selfishness, self-centeredness. Is it so in our families?” he continued.
Concluding by advising families of the importance of sincere and in-depth communication, he said that if a result of this year’s World Meeting of Families is that both families and the Church become “a little more like the family of Nazareth,” it will have been fruitful.
“Families of the world, we love you! Families of the world, we appreciate you! Families of the world, we want to help you!… Help us to help you!” he encouraged.