Christians see the world differently. Many in our culture see life as an opportunity to define ourselves and live our dreams. In contrast, we Christians follow Jesus who “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
We know that we were created good but that sin has compromised our ability to choose what’s best for us. As St. Paul said, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15). We’re not bad. But we do need help.
Jesus provides that help by inviting us to follow him. For many of us, this takes the form of family life. Rather than a kind of self-expression, we see the family as a “school of deeper humanity” (Gaudium et Spes 52) that, by demanding our free and total gift of self, reforms us and prepares us for life in heaven.
Because we have a long way to go, our family’s study in this “school of deeper humanity” involves lots of fits and starts. As Pope Francis has said, “In families we quarrel, sometimes plates can fly.” Nonetheless, the repeated sacrifices of family life, when made with Jesus as our guide, transform us. The dreams of my youth did not include mowing lawns, debating teenage daughters or cleaning up dismembered rodents the cat brings into the house. But each time
I overcome my initial resistance, make a small sacrifice and say “Yes” to Jesus, a change takes place.
As we approach Lent, we can take advantage of this “school of deeper humanity” by intentionally approaching the sacrifices of family life as a way to deepen our relationship with Jesus. Here is a simple way to do this in challenging situations.
Start by thanking God for your spouse or child. A temper tantrum when you take away the iPhone from your 3-year-old doesn’t feel like a gift. But your daughter is. If we think about it right, even the tantrum is a gift. It’s just the sound of entitlement being transformed into self-control.
Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t just a way to restore a damaged relationship with someone we’ve wronged. It’s also a great thing to say to God when things aren’t going right. It acknowledges we need to be aligned with his will. It’s also something we can say to our children when they are suffering with a difficulty. We don’t apologize for taking the iPhone away, but we can say, “I’m sorry that this feels so hard. I love you very much.” This communicates that your discipline isn’t a battle of wills, but an attempt to make things right.
Asking Jesus to “Make me more like you” invites the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts even in a difficult moment. This was God’s plan for family life from the beginning: that it would prepare us for heaven through a deeper, more joyful humanity.
Northwest Catholic – January/February 2021
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at [email protected].
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: [email protected]