IN all my years of service to Christ, I realized that all the gifts that God has given us are only as good as our capability to maximize them.
I experienced this realization through one of the first gifts God has given me, my family. It was through the influence of my father and mother—their love, their prayerfulness, and selflessness— that I came to understand what God was calling me to do for others. Every time I am hit with this profound thought, I thank God profusely for they led me to follow God’s will. Because of how they
raised me, I know that I am exactly where God has chosen me to be—to uphold, defend, and protect the reason that gave meaning to my life—the family.
Brothers and sisters, if we can visualize what the family would look like, the family would look like a bruised child, constantly trying to defend itself from the taunting of bullies in society who constantly tell him that the family is of no value and use anymore.
It sometimes saddens me that the world has come to this—that many would forsake the Sacrament of Marriage out of being “practical”. It wounds me to see couples having difficulty fulfilling their vows and resort to “giving up”. It bothers me how children are choosing gadgets over parents, while parents choose careers over the home.
I agree with Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia: “A crisis in a couple’s relationship destabilizes the family and may lead, through separation and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening its individual and social bonds.” ( no. 41)
Have we forgotten why this family was given to us, wrapped in an infinite amount of grace and love?
Family is a gift because …
My dearest friends in Christ, or rather, I should say, my dearest family in Christ, let us not forget that our families are a gift.
It was created with a great purpose. The family is the first place where we learn to become human—a ‘cradle of life and love’. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, p.209) It is designed to be the concrete manifestation of overflowing love as seen in the perfect love within the Holy Trinity.
“The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God.” (Amoris Laetitia no. 166)
Because it is a gift, we, the lay faithful, are called to uphold its giftedness by:
Acknowledging the sending. “Love between husband and wife and with the children is always a gift of God. Wherever it is poured out, it makes its transforming presence felt, often in mysterious
ways.” (Amoris Laetitia no. 228)
Let us express our gratitude to God for the gift of family. Despite the trials, challenges, and issues we encounter within it, let us never forget that God has given us to them, or rather placed us in them for a reason. Let us wake up every day thanking God for the graces, knowing we cannot preserve its value alone. Let us offer each family member in prayer—knowing that each person is a gift from God to us.
Opening and using the gift. The recent papal document on the young people as expressed by Pope Francis presents significantly the value and dignity of being a gift. “For Jesus, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands. That is why he is concerned about you and looks to you with affection.” (Christus Vivit # 115)
The family is also the work of God’s hands. Let us discover the beauty of our family. What is its uniqueness? Giftedness? Be reflective and discover how our families can be a gift to other families as well. Let us encourage our own families to be active in faith. Let us bring our family members closer to Jesus.
Sharing the gift. Let us allow our family members to experience the gift of mission, providing for them an opportunity to share who they are to the world. Encourage them to open their eyes to other families who are in need of their support, company, and guidance.
A message to the next generation
To the Filipino youth, a lot rests on you. Young as you are, the Lord is calling you to preserve the family as a gift, by being gifts to others. How do we become gifts to others?
By practicing these 3Ps!
Personal reflection and realization
Have you thought of the inspiring words of Pope Francis at his meeting with the young people during the synod? He said: “Young people, beloved of the Lord, how valuable must you be, if you were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, you are priceless! You are not up for sale! Please, do not let yourself be bought. You must repeat this always: I am not up for sale; I do not have a price. I am free! Fall in love with this freedom, which is what Jesus offers”. (rf. October 6,2018; CV #122)
Self – knowledge and self – awareness are vital in being a gift to others. Every day, we need to have a time for silence and meditation in order for us to be conscious of our giftedness. Most of us spend our lives existing but not really living. We wake up, move, and do our usual routines, without really being mindful of why we do things or for whom we are doing them. Let us make every waking moment a chance to be a gift to others, especially your own family.
As you become more aware of how you were created by God, accompany this with the habit of critical thinking and constantly asking for the Lord’s will in your life. These days, it seems the young
generation is trained to be “lazy”. Why? Because there are systems and technology (like Google, Facebook, and social media) to think and do the work for them.
My dear young ones, let us use the gift of knowledge and wisdom to analyze the life we’re living. Our minds are a special gift from God, differentiating us from all creation. Use that mind to ponder, analyze, and decide, in order to deliberately act on something.
Have you asked yourselves these questions?
What do should I do with my life?
What is the Lord doing to my life?
How can I be a gift to my family?
How can our family be a gift to others?
For us to respond to the challenge of discerning our family and personal situation, I want us to look at the importance of the formation of conscience. For us priests who hear confession, we could say that the quality of sins we listen to in the sacrament of reconciliation would gauge the depth of moral consciousness of our parishioners. How about decision-making during the recent elections? During the recent elections, one can conclude on the level of moral decisions of our people, from the prism of the moral development theories of Piaget and Kohlberg. For our young people, the proliferation of fake news through different media platforms is as ordinary as daily news. If we want to remain in Jesus with the spiritual aid of discernment, formation of conscience is a must. “Forming our conscience is the work of a lifetime, in which we learn to cultivate the very sentiments of Jesus Christ, adopting the criteria behind his choices and the intentions behind his actions.” (Christus Vivit # 281)
Is our conscience formed with the values of family?
Lastly, because being a gift to others and our family can sometimes be a daunting feat, I urge you to pray—consistently, constantly, and unceasingly. We ought to pray, not just in the quiet parts of our home, but also as we go out and interact with others. Let us pray as we train ourselves to see the Jesus in another.
We all belong to families but we can never be families in the fullest sense without the presence of Christ. My dear couples, put Christ in you marriage in order to enrich the giftedness of your family. I hope that both of you pray when you wake up in the morning. Seek to have a devotion to the Holy Family.
I am one with Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exultate in saying that, “I do not believe in holiness without prayer, even though that prayer need not be lengthy or involve intense emotions.” ( no. 147)
My fellow brothers and sisters in mission, to all family and life organizations, the task to protect the family and uphold its giftedness is not easy. The clergy alone cannot do it. Lay faithful alone cannot do it. We all need to work together—and become a church, a family, in order to slowly touch the lives of families around us. We need your creativity to think of more ideas and new ways to help make Jesus’ message of love attractive to them. We need solidarity so that the mission can further exponentially.
We need your prayers. It is in prayer that we begin to see that we need Christ. Prayer is our way of listening to Him so that we can become a gift. Let us become a gift from God for others.
(This was delivered by Archbishop Gilbert Garcera at the launch of “Family is a Gift” program in the Archdiocese of Lipa, held on May 18, 2019. Garcera is the Archbishop of Lipa and Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.)