By: Dr. Greg Popcak
About one month after Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he gave a great homily on the subjects of proclamation, witness, worship. It was very accessible and is worth the read. Here is a brief quote from the homily:
“In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed God’s flock unless we let ourselves be carried by God’s will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives.
But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God?”
To read the full text, click here.
The key theme of his message can be summarized in 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.
The Ministry of Marriage and the Family
How hard is it today 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? Who, though far from perfect, doesn’t threaten to throw in the towel in every argument or in the presence of every hardship? How many couples do you know who, after 5, 10, 15, 20+ years together really enjoy each other’s company, pray together, or 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. Christianity 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.
Rooted in Love
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.
In this homily, 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.