Summary: Does your family work, learn and pray together, or as disconnected individuals?
Monday of 7th Week in Course
20 May 20213
Gaudium et Spes
The incident in today’s Gospel may be regarded as symbolic of what has come to be called a dysfunctional family. Here the son appears to be suffering from a diabolically caused autism or seizure disorder, and the father is seen as totally helpless. The mother is nowhere in sight. The one who is supposed to lead with strength is impotent to relieve his family’s suffering, and the one who is supposed to support, comfort, nurture, encourage is AWOL. Jesus, who is the human embodiment of the Divine Family, the Blessed Trinity we celebrate next Sunday, comes to restore the broken family order. He is able to do so because of prayer. He is always in contact with the Father, in the Holy Spirit. As a result, he can drive out even the most powerful demon.
Today families are under assault as never before. We know the spiritual cause–the Father of Lies who says that any grouping of humans can be a family, even those who abuse each other. We even can understand the economic cause in our hyper-capitalistic world. Close-knit families with a strong sense of interdependence do things for and with each other. Parents teach children to read and sew and knit and build and wire and garden. Children value time spent with their parents and their siblings. They don’t buy a lot beyond the basic necessities because they make and do things together. Moreover, they pray together because they know that the strongest family is assailed by forces outside their control, and they need the help of the Almighty One.
The Council Fathers taught how this works in God’s plan: “Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.(7) By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.
“As a result, with their parents leading the way by example and family prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.
“As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness.”
Dysfunctional families, by contrast, are fragmented. I see them too frequently. They may be at the same table, but they have their heads down, staring at screens of I-pads or I-phones. They know the “I,” but not the family “we.” They text without communicating; they play games with distant friends who are not real friends. And they do not pray, so they cannot participate in the driving out of the demons who are possessing them. So we must do so for them.