A Eucharistic Family
by Fr. Peter deSousa
There are celebrities like film stars and actors who are very beautiful and handsome with well-proportioned, sculpted bodies that their fans admire. Their extraordinary beauty or imposing physical presence sets them apart and above ordinary mortals. Many marriages between such people do not last very long. If they do, there may not be much intimacy or love. Secondly, there are people of extraordinary intelligence and genius who are distinguished artists, scientists, authors and economists. How happy are their marriages if there is competition and egoism between the spouses? It is said that a very beautiful actress proposed marriage to George Bernard Shaw. She said to him: "With my beauty and your brains, imagine what children we will produce!!" He replied: "True, but suppose they have my looks and your brains". There is a third category of greatness and that is those who are endowed with holiness by the Spirit of God. These are humble people who are able to love and serve Jesus in others. (Paschal in Pensees 793Br) Such spouses will have a loving relationship.
This is the year of the Eucharist and it might be worthwhile to reflect on our call to be a Eucharistic Family. What is the Eucharist? Jesus becomes present on our altars in his saving mysteries of death and resurrection, so that we may die with him and rise with him to a new life of love and service. He lives in us and we live in him and are enabled to love our spouse and children, as He loves us. The Holy Spirit makes us a Eucharistic family.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit:
- Creation came forth out of nothingness;
- God became man in the womb of Mary;
- Jesus' words and miracles were life-giving to those who believed;
- Jesus rose from the dead;
- The Church was born at Pentecost;
- We are baptised and become temples of the living God;
- We are recreated anew in the sacrament of reconciliation;
- Bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus;
- We become the Body of Christ in the world, continuing the saving mission of Jesus.
Look up the advertisements for a bride or groom in the newspapers. What is advertised are beauty, intelligence, high powered jobs that ensure money, power and position in society and comforts and security they are supposed to bring. Yet the highest divorce rates, addictions and suicides are also among such people. The Eucharistic family is made up of humble people who collaborate rather than compete with each other. Sacrifice out of love and being life-giving in word and deed are noticeable in such families. The family is spirit-filled and led by the Spirit and the Word of God, like Mary and Joseph with Jesus in their midst
In such families, there is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Where families are not led by the Spirit, there is immorality, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and magic, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, discord and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. (Gal 6:19-23) Which does your family resemble?
An aged widow who was house-bound, longed to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. If a child or grand-child went to Mass, on returning from Church, she would ask them to give her a "Jesus kiss". "Your lips have received Jesus and He has made them holy. Speak words of life!!" she would tell them, if they were inclined to find fault, criticise, judge, condemn or speak ill of others. A kiss is a sign of affection, affirmation of the other's worth, comfort, reconciliation and healing. So at Mass, we exchange the kiss of peace. In India it has become a Namasthe, which is a sign of reverence. I see God in you. Unfortunately a kiss can also be a sign of betrayal as Judas kissed Jesus to betray him. At Mass too the routine sign of peace can be hollow and unrelated to life. In a Eucharistic family, members give each other the Jesus kiss often.
In family life today we can witness a lot of unhappiness, when we do not allow the Spirit to lead and guide us to be channels of His peace and love to each other many times a day. So many families are constantly living in anger, frustration, hatred, bitterness, loneliness, sadness, fear and anxiety. So many women nag, scream, verbally attack and destroy their husbands and children. They want to control and organise everyone to do their will, believing it is for their own good. All the sacrifices they make come to nought. So many men drink, become violent and abusive, gamble, use others for their own advantage, lack tenderness, gentleness and respect. They are not led by the Spirit but by their own ego. Then there are those who are loners and sulk, act indifferent, ignore and excommunicate the others when they are hurt. The family becomes miserable. Where there is love, there is God. Where there is no love, where is God? The Eucharistic family lives the Mass, in the way that they relate to each other everyday. Life leads to the altar and flows back from it into their domestic Churches where they live what they profess. The same is true of Religious Communities and Presbyteries.
Sacrifice means dying to ourselves and emptying ourselves, in order to be life-giving to each other many times a day. As bread is broken and blood is poured out, so do we allow ourselves to become a source of nourishment to members of our family, everyday. That leads to stability in a marriage and home, no matter what external problems of financial difficulty, sickness, accidents, unemployment, failures and rejections we may face. The family that prays together stays together. Gathering together in the name of Jesus is prayer. This union in silent awareness of God's abiding presence helps to make us present to each other as his hands and voice too.
There is a need of contemplative prayer in family life. Vocal prayers alone will not suffice. Silence in which one listens to the voice of God and sees Him present in our midst, will help restore communion between God and man and between God's children. As the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, so too does He transform us into the mystical Body of Christ.
In that moment of contemplating the face of God who loves us and sees us as his precious children, we receive the grace to let go of our pettiness, rivalry, desire to control, manipulate, take revenge, settle scores and act superior. It is a moment of truth and humility, when we can be united once more in love by the God who calls us to be one in Him.
When we are busy talking to God or each other, we so often do not listen. In trying to impose ourselves, we do not allow God to wield us into His Eucharistic Body. Like dough that is kneaded and baked in the oven, we too have to allow God to knead us and bake us in the furnace of His love into the bread of life. Patience is required to let God do this in His time. He is so patient with us and we too have to be patient with ourselves and other family members, because God never finishes with us or gives up on us. He makes all of us Eucharistic in His time.
The family meal is an important time to be united in thanking and praising God for the food we eat, the roof over our heads and the blessing of belonging to a family. When the food is too plentiful, rich and varied, we may suffer from indigestion. We may not be able to choose what is good for us, or what our body requires. When each one has their own room, we may scarcely meet or learn to share, co-operate and create together a happy home. Why did the Holy Family choose to be poor and simple? God could have provided his son with a palace in which Herod lived, or a temple in which Caiaphas ruled the roost. Why did the Son of Man not have a stone on which to lay his head but chose to wine and dine with sinners in table fellowship? Would we care or dare to invite such people to share our table and meet Jesus who is the unseen guest at every meal? At Mass, all are welcome to partake of the Eucharist. The Divine Physician came for the sick and not for those in excellent health. Are we not all in need of healing?
As we prayerfully reflect on the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, we may receive answers to some of these questions and with His grace become again and again a Eucharistic family. We never arrive. We may at times experience what this means and lose it for a while under the cloud of selfishness.
Life is full of new beginnings for every family. This is humbling, but true. Christ will come again to invite us to that eternal banquet of which the Eucharist is a foretaste and a sign, that there is more to look forward to.
E-mail this article to a friend
For Better or for Worse copyright © 2004-2005 Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.