There was an old Indian chief, and he was dying. So he gathered his three sons and told them, “One of you will succeed me as chief. But before I decide who it will be, I want each of you to climb to the top of our ancestors’ holy mountain and bring me back from there something beautiful. You have until sunset to accomplish that. The one whose gift is most precious will succeed me.”
The sons left immediately and by sunset they returned with their gifts. The first brought his father a rare and beautiful flower. The second brought a huge block of solid gold. But the third son said, “Father, sorry I brought back nothing. As I stood on the top of the holy mountain, I saw that on the other side a big patch of land. When I saw it, my imagination ran wild! It was a land of fertile, green pastures, and crystal clear waters. I imagined our people settling there and making a better life. I saw our children growing there and our children’s children being reared there. Before I knew it, it was already sunset and I had to come back. There was no time to look for something to bring you.”
The old chief smiled and said to his third son, “You will be the leader of our tribe, because you brought us the best gift of all: A vision for our future.”
Without vision, civilizations die, cultures disappear, people perish.
As St Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio affirms, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” (#86).
Now from the very beginning, in the very first pages of Scriptures, God has already given us a clear vision for man, woman, and the human family. Jesus, in the episode of his dialogue with the Pharisees on the question of marriage and divorce, alluded to this, when he refuted all their objections, and twice, referred them to the go back to the “beginning” ( Cf. Matthew 19: 4, 8).
When we lose sight of what God in His wisdom intends for man and woman “from the beginning”( Matthew 19: 4, 9), whenever we veer away from God’s vision for the human family, that family will eventually die, perish and disappear. That was what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden. They wanted to have no part in God’s vision for them. They wanted instead, the vision painted by the cunning serpent, “you shall be like Gods… .”(Genesis 3:5).
I remember the inspirational theme chosen by St. Pope John Paul II for the 4th World Meeting of Families held in Manila last Jan. 22-26, 2003. It evoked a positive vision for the future – “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millenium.” The cynic in us can find himself asking, “Is the family really good news to the third millenium when the rate of divorce and broken families is at an all time high?” “How can the family be good news when today, when even the basic family structure of father, mother, and child is put into question by proponents of same-sex marriages?” “Is the family really good news when traditional values of fidelity and commitment are frowned upon as vestiges of an antiquated past?”
To these and many other questions may I dare respond yes! Yes, the family is still good news to the Third Millenium, but not simply any “family.” It has to be a “Christian” family! For the family to be truly Good News for the Third Millenium, it has to be a “Christian Family”, true to the kind that God called the family to be.
I chanced upon a recent episode of a so called reality show. A housemate was called to the “confession room” after acting irresponsibly towards her housemates. When asked how she felt after her misdeed, the housemate was unapologetic and plainly said, “Proud pa rin ako. Nagpakatotoo lang naman ako eh” (I still stand by what I did because I was just being true to myself).
Though being true to ourselves is right, the statement needs to be qualified and put into proper context. Being true ourselves doesn’t mean showing who we are while being stubborn about it. This means it does not validate our current negative qualities like being irresponsible, immature, or impulsive. Our “I am”s will eventually hurt others and ourselves as well. In other words, sometimes, the truth of who we are needs to be understood and put in check.
Being true to ourselves ultimately means being true to who we are called to be, for that is the goal of maturity. The vision of who we are called to be must always check who we are at the present moment.
Then we become really true to ourselves, one called to perfection, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).”We all know the principle, “You cannot give what you do not have.” This underlines the essential passage from self-possession (maturity) to self-donation (charity). For the family to be “gift” for the Third Millenium, it has to “repossess” itself, recover its original “Christian” character that God willed it and called it to be “from the beginning.”
Friends, in our rebellion, God’s original plan for the human family can be obscured by our “stubbornness of heart (Mt 19:8).” In our misguided independence, we can lose our very identity. We can lose the Christian character of the human family. Let us go back to the embrace of the Father, and align our vision to that of the Father. Families, become who you are!