Posted on: 2015-06-07

Most ancient mystery

The feast of the Holy Trinity, celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, revisits the mystery of God manifested in three persons of immense power, splendour and love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is indeed the central mystery of the Christian faith. That is why Christians are baptised not in their own names but in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Consequently, it is worthwhile to seek understanding, about on the self-revelation of God, one-in-three, bequeathed to us by Jesus Christ who himself told his disciples in the Great Mandate: "Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt 28:19). A famous formula by which Christians bless themselves has been in the Church since the earliest times. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all", as St. Paul proves repeatedly (2Cor. 13:13, Eph. 4: 4-6). Jesus said in the gospels "I and the Father are one", "the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me" Clearly, the Trinity is inseparable, though distinct in each person. In illuminating that mystery, some teachers have compared God the Father to the Sun, God the Son to the light it gives and God the Holy Spirit to the heat it produces.

Unity and love of the family

The entire Creed of the Church demonstrates that God is best known as communion, unity service and family. Saint Paul, writing to the Philippians, described the Son of God yielding his glory to serve man's salvation out of love (Phil 2: 5ff). In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Trinity closely relates to family life. "The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ.... The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members' respect for one another" (CCC 2205-2206). Little wonder that at this time of great challenges for family life, many people and institutions strive to restore its appreciation in the hearts of many who may be tempted by relativism and modern, selfish, consumerist ideologies. The Holy Trinity is a big reminder that there is a divine element in family relationships.

Commitment from Africa and Europe

This same awareness of the family is shared well beyond the shores of Africa. Representatives of Catholic Bishops of Europe and Africa recently pledged to redouble their efforts in evangelization through a more focused family pastoral care in all their dioceses. They also resolved to promote the vision of the Christian family in their faithful and in every person of good will. The bishops expressed this in their final message at the end of a seminar jointly organized by the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Mumemo, Mozambique from May 28-31, 2015. They expressed their strong desire to “let the light of Christ shine, by increasing our pastoral care of the family, by preparing our youth for Holy Matrimony, by accompanying our families with or without children, with spiritual support, by taking care of the elderly and not forgetting the divorced in whatever circumstances.”

Bitter-sweet family realities

The Bishops, though keeping their overall message positive, highlighted some of the challenges they saw in the way of the family. "Our hearts are broken, when we notice young children, orphaned, abused, without education, many of whom live alone on the streets, and teenagers lured into violence, crime, prostitution, etc. We hear of so many mothers, who desperately see no future for their unborn child, and so resort to abortion. What a pain this must be! But joyfully, we also see the Holy Spirit at work, in so many families that live a life of selflessness and sacrifice, being generously open to new life, and giving themselves without conditions to other family members, and in that way really finding fulfillment in themselves.  This is what Jesus says to such people: “…Whosoever loses his life for my sake will find it…”(Mt. 10.38-39), and again: “No greater love has anyone than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15.13). We hear of so many good initiatives that support families in their daily burdens and circumstances. In Africa especially, the bonds of family members are very strong. We admire the vitality of living faith-communities, and the presence of so many young people. In Europe, we rejoice over the many new religious movements that have arisen in recent years, that explicitly embrace family life, and are bringing about a new spring and élan to this wonderful creation of God, the human family.  We cannot but rejoice in these good signs".

Worthwhile effort on the Family

It could be tempting to pay much more attention to bread and butter issues of today than to the realities of the traditional family. But a married couple from Kenya, participating along with other lay people at the Mozambique consultations, strongly appealed to the Church and governments to do more in confronting the challenges facing the traditional family by preparing social and pastoral agents to accompany married couples in their journey of life. The benefits of such efforts on the sanity of society, they said, cannot be overstated. Their testimony proves the Bishops' consultations right for indeed, he who feels it, knows it.