“The family that prays together stays together”

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) / Mark 10:2-16

Fr. Fabien K., sxBy Fr. Fabien, sx

It is providential that this Sunday the Church starts the Synod on family and at the same time the gospel speaks about the burning issue or thorny question that threatens many families and couples: the divorce, either separation or annulment (in the Philippines context) that most of the time emanates from infidelity of one of the partners. Somehow, directly or indirectly, each of us is affected by the crisis of family connected to this question. We all have or know a relative, a friend or an acquaintance who is facing or has faced the bitter and burdensome experience of separation, divorce and brokenness of heart. The euphoria before marriage becomes a living nightmare and a horror movie during the marriage. For many, marriage has become a lost paradise, a tomb, and a hell. Nowadays, it has become acceptable and more and more fashionable to change his/her partner or to live in concubinage or in adultery. Some people are brandishing or rationalizing the idea that it is not possible to be bound to only one man or woman; one must vary in experience with many other men or women. Others no longer believe in fidelity that they define it as situational issue, meaning a person is faithful to another as long as s/he is not exposed to temptation. Many couples break up because of the infidelity that generates separation, annulment or divorce. This distressing situation of family happens because some people don’t believe strongly in the lasting and solid relationship and are afraid of a lifetime commitment. The relationship between a husband and his wife and vice versa becomes unstable and loose. There are many other situations and reasons that put the family in crisis and thereby make it fragile.

I am not an expert on family issues or a specialist in counseling. I don’t have magic solutions to this crisis. I can only emphasize two reasons among other countless of reasons.

First, lack of dialogue. Dialogue means communication, listening and understanding. Dialogue requires time between spouses, to have time for each other. The underlying of dialogue is humility: a spouse should avoid defending or absolutizing, at any cost, his or her point of view; and learn to accept to be wrong if s/he is indeed wrong. From a dialogue reconciliation and forgiveness between partners become possible. Dialogue and forgiveness bond the union between spouses.

Second, lack of spiritual life or weak relationship with God of the spouses, either both of them don’t take care of their relationship with God, they don’t pray together or only one is interested in the prayer. The relationship is not solid in marriage because there is no God between spouses, and there is no prayer life in the family. God is the third party who unites, strengthens and blesses the couples. The absence of God in the family and between the spouses means absence of blessings. It means hell and crisis of values as well. We Christians cannot strengthen the relationship as couple and as family without God.

Fr. Patrick Peyton reminds us that “The family that prays together stays together.”

It is interesting to see in the second part of the gospel that children are brought by their parents to Jesus to receive blessing. “And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them” (Mk 10: 13). Jesus told his disciples who were preventing people from bringing their children to him: “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mk 10:14). Parents may play the disciples by being an obstacle in spiritual growth of their children and preventing them from getting close to Christ if their way of life is not morally and spiritually inspiring.

Jesus affirms that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children, or better to those who are childlike and not childish. In other words, the kingdom of God belongs to people who humble themselves like children.

Being as children brings us to the mystery of the incarnation: the mystery of God who makes himself childlike, weak and in need of help.

The metaphor of becoming “like children” becomes the parable of God’s kingdom. It becomes also the parable of humility, the parable of trust and peace in our relationship with God and with others. With a childlike heart, couples should always come to Jesus. They should put Jesus at the center of their life since it is with Jesus alone that their life will be fulfilled, and in Him alone will their hope and dream become true until its completion.

Today we are invited to contemplate once more the beauty of the family, appreciate all the values that preserve its integrity, and look at marriage as a gift, a vocation and a project of God made since the beginning of creation: “From the beginning of creation God made them male and female”.

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