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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Christian Family's Unique Relationship with Christ

The Christian family, that is a family where at least one member is baptized and practicing the faith, bears unique relationship with the humiliated Christ—Christ's humiliation is the Christian family's glory, Christ loves but He is not loved. So it is with the believer. we must learn to love when we are not loved. the more we learn such love, the closer we have drawn into the heart of the Lord. Only prayer can go to this place. By devotion that allows the heart to pour itself out to the Lord in silence, we follow in the footsteps of our crucified God even in the hidden and difficult to bear moments of marriage and family life. The power of prayer leads us on a pathway to Christ’s humility, the deepest humility ever known. The deeper into humility we plunge with Christ, the more invincible our love for one another and our hope becomes. Prayer takes us into this victory.

Christ’s death on the Cross with his descent into hell, with his resurrection with his ascension into heaven—all of these mysteries of redemption are the mysteries that animate the Christian family. If there are moments of defeat where nothing goes well and every plan runs amiss, an act of faith joins this sorrow to Christ's victory. Indeed, it was when Christ was most powerless and humiliated that He accomplished his greatest act of praise and won the salvation of humanity. So too when the family is most tried, faith in Christ allows the Holy Spirit to shower down blessings and beatitude in ways our natural power of reason cannot see. A family can go through hell but, by faith in Christ, there is always new reasons for hope.

The Holy Spirit is drawn to the humble but humility is not easy to learn. We learn humility by being brought to our knees. In many ways, the story of the family in the world today is one of the brokenness and betrayal. Without faith, it may be easy to see this as insurmountable and meaningless. The eyes of faith, however, see new opportunities for identification with Christ—for a deeper connection with the mysteries by which He overthrew our hostility to Him. The story of the twelve who betrayed Him and the humiliation of the Cross was prelude to a new birth for all of humanity So the stories of our family prelude a new work that God yearns to do if we will trust in Him. This new work opens to the household of faith that John and Mary shared. Here, at the hearth of Mary's maternal love for every beloved disciple, the new family that Christ’s death has constituted is open to us.

How do we know whether teaching is true? Christ revealed a love stronger than death and this is ours if we will believe in Him. He offers us a new communion with one another, a solidarity. This is what He prayed for when He prayed to the Father "May they be one." His prayer is infallible. If we join our prayer with His, in ways that do not conform to our imagination or narrow plans, He brings to fulfillment His deep desires for us in ways that cause all of heaven to rejoice.

The break up of families and marriages—the horrible alienation that threatens on every side, the terrible loneliness—this is not the end of the family. With a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it is the birth pangs of new life—God is bringing to birth a new love more beautiful than any love we have ever known. Lesser loves, impure loves, these hold back the fullness that He yearns for us to share in. He purifies us because He wants us to know the truth, and standing on the ground of the truth, He longs that we may at last discover the freedom to love with a new intensity, a fullness that we have never known before, one so rich in meaning that time cannot contain it.

(This is part of the presentation given to the SCRC on the Power of Prayer in Family Life)

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