Christian Family in the Time of COVID-19
In this time characterized by family crises, although almost 2,000 years have passed, we Christians gaze to the Holy Family of Nazareth for inspiration. The Holy Family of Nazareth does not simply represent a perfect model of family. The Holy Family, too, had to live through tumultuous times.
The evangelists did not try to hide the dark moments of the Holy Family’s life. Instead they honestly depicted how the Family overcame every crisis. For instance, on hearing of Mary’s pregnancy, a happening difficult for a human to fathom, Joseph decided to divorce her quietly. However, Joseph, through the angel of the Lord, came to know the work of God and accepted it with faith (cf. Mt 1,18- 25). When Herod ordered the massacre of the innocents, the Family was forced to flee to Egypt. They willingly embraced and overcame the troubles, facing them. Even when they lost Jesus on the street, they searched around for days, never giving up hope.
The vicissitudes of life experienced by the Holy Family are not very different from our own. At every time of crisis, the Holy Family was ever more faithful to God’s will. In the face of the unfathomable work of God, they searched for the divine will and ‘kept all these things, reflecting on them in their heart’ (cf. Lk 2,19). They trusted completely in almighty God who is able to transform everything.
The Holy Family of Nazareth can shed light on our families today: they faced the challenges of life with serenity and courage and kept in their heart the great things which God had done (cf. Amoris Lætitia, n. 30). Christian families are called to mission and witness to God who continues to do great things through them. Just like the Holy Family, our families too should trust in God and strive to listen to Him in the midst of the adversities of life. We also trust in the intercession of the Virgin Mary who kept His words in her heart and stayed faithful to the end. This faith helps us to navigate the waves of God’s providence and fully experience the divine will in this world.
In the current circumstances, where Masses and public gatherings are restricted due to COVID-19, we pay special attention to ‘a domestic church,’ the ecclesial nature of the Christian family. Today we are called to restore the dignity of the domestic church (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 11; Gratissimam Sane, n. 3; Amoris Lætitia, nn. 15.86-88). The early Church community praised and prayed to God with the family at its center (cf. Rom 16,5; 1Cor 16,19; Col 4,15; Phlm 1,2).
Family has always played an important role in the history of Salvation. Family is a gift from God and a place where love can blossom and then be offered freely. It is love of family that heals our pains and wounds. In the family we learn self-giving love, compassionate love, patient and enduring love, and unconditional and forgiving love. Family functions as a small domestic church within the universal Church so that the Church can be realized in our everyday lives. (cf. Walter Kasper, The Gospel of the Family).
A Christian family is an ecclesial reality which embodies the threefold priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry of Christ, as entrusted to the Christian faithful through baptism. Family can provide a space for the Gospel and the Eucharist when it is filled with the presence of Christ (cf. Amoris Lætitia, n. 15). “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you” (Mk 5,19). As Jesus said, a family’s living place is the setting for
catechesis which transmits both Christian faith and life. In other words, the “family needs the Church and vice versa” (The Gospel of the Family).
At the heart of today’s crisis of faith, there is a family crisis. Facing the joint crises of faith and the transmission of the faith, the Catholic Church in Korea feels bound to restore a domestic church. The domestic church tradition on which the universal Church has put emphasis is inherited and flourished beautifully in the Church in Korea. Celebrating the Jubilee Year on the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, the Church in Korea strives to renew such a holy tradition. During the long years of persecution in Korea, it was in families that the Gospel was proclaimed, liturgy celebrated, and the faith passed on. Additionally, the family was also a cradle for priestly and religious vocations. Therefore the restoration of a
domestic church is ever more necessary in our time.
This contact-free situation created by the COVID-19 outbreak prompts us to pay special attention to the role of family, which has been neglected for years. The hidden wounds and pains of our families often resurface; thus giving families the opportunity to reexamine relationships within. Problems within our families have always existed, but COVID-19 has exacerbated the issues. Today, Christian families should take their mission to follow the example of the Holy Family ever more seriously. Just like Jesus Christ, who continually sought out the Father’s will and just like the Virgin Mary, who always relied upon God’s love, let us serve God as the Lord of our families. May God grant us courage and patience in these testing times and may God also help us carry out the holy mission entrusted to our families; trusting Him who leads everything to the good.
December 27, 2020
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus,
Mary and Joseph
+ Linus Lee Seong-hyo
Auxiliary Bishop of Suwon
CBCK Committee for Family & Life