The key theme of his message is the sentence, “Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.”
I’d like to unpack what this means for Catholic couples and families. As Catholics, we recognize that marriage and family life is an important ministry of Church. Most of us don’t think of ministry that way. We think of ministry as reading at mass, or doing charity work in our community and it is true, those activities are ministries. But the Church recognizes that marriage and family life is one of two vocations, and vocations are the primary ways we live out the witness of our baptism and build the kingdom of God–which is really the definition of ministry.
God want to change the world through your marriage. Do you know how hard it is to find a couple who works well together? Who truly loves each other? Who really works hard to take care of each other? Do you know how hard it is to find a couple who doesn’t eat each other alive when they are disappointed in each other or life? Do you know how hard it is these days to find a couple who, though far from perfect, doesn’t threaten to throw in the towel in every argument or in the presence of every hardship? Do you know how hard it is to find a couple who, after 5, 10, 15, 20+ years together really enjoys each other’s company? Who prays together? Who really takes care of each other’s hearts even more than their things?
What’s my point? Well, imagine the couple who is working hard to master all of the above. Maybe they’re not doing it perfectly, but imagine a couple striving to live this way. Isn’t that example inspiring? Doesn’t that example make you want to try a little harder? Doesn’t that example give you maybe a little clearer picture of what love really looks like–a love that doesn’t fail?
I think that example is world-changing. I think if we had more couples like this then we wouldn’t be in the middle of the fight we’re having about the redefinition of marriage. We wouldn’t have children being raised in homes without mothers or fathers. Chrisitianity would become the light to the world it was meant to be. Tertullian once said, “the pagans all say, ‘look at those Christians. See how they love one another!'” That is the witness of the New Evangelization. Couples and families participate in the new evangelization just by loving each other in a way that stands out in its mutuality, generosity, kindness, passion and joy.
So many couples feel guilty working on their marriage. They feel like, with so many other serious problems and worthy causes in the world, working on your marriage can’t be all that important! But how important is it to know that love really exists—and that it is possible for you. Do you know how many addictions are caused because people don’t believe that love is really possible for them? Do you know how much depression and anxiety is rooted in the fact that people don’t know that they are loved, or don’t believe they will ever find real love, or don’t think that its even possible to imagine it much less acquire it.
We live in a world that desperately needs an example of love; a healthy love. A love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. A love that never fails.
Yesterday, Pope Francis asked us to not merely preach the gospel but to bear witness to it. By working to live the Catholic vision of love in your home, you can become exactly the kind of evangelist the world needs.