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by Matthew Kelly
The Joy of Love
by Father Bob Sherry
Ever since Pope Francis was elected, his “off-the-cuff” remarks have been taken out of context, twisted, and used to advance the personal agendas of many who have no love for the Church. A couple of weeks ago, the pope’s latest writings were released. The Joy of Love discusses the challenges and opportunities that face Christians as they seek to live out the Gospel in their marriages and family life.
Again, the media has focused on certain quotes, often taking them out of context, and distorting what Pope Francis is actually trying to convey to all men and women of goodwill. It seems that when it comes to Catholicism, there are more and more men and women of ill will who wish to distort what is good and true in an effort to further their own godless agendas.
Dynamic Catholic was honored to collaborate with the Vatican to publish The Joy of Love. I would like to encourage you to give it a read, especially if you have not read any of Pope Francis’ writings.
As always, we are doing everything we can to make great Catholic content available for free or at very low prices. Our goal is not to make money, but to share the genius of Catholicism with as many as possible. You can request a FREE copy of The Joy of Love; we simply ask that you pay the shipping costs.
If you would like to give a copy of the book to everyone in your parish, you can purchase The Joy of Love for just $2 per copy.
Can you imagine how difficult it is to be the pope? Reflect on that for a moment. Spiritual Father to the whole world. Being pulled in a thousand directions at every moment of the day. Reforming broken systems and chasing corruption out of certain corners of the Church. Loved by many, despised by some.
Let us pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis this month as we celebrate Father’s Day. And let us pray for our fathers, living or dead, that God will warmly embrace them.
The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.
— From “The Joy of Love” by Pope Francis
The Bible is full of families, births, love stories, and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength (cf. Gen 4), to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb (Rev 21:2, 9). Jesus’ description of the two houses, one built on rock and the other on sand (cf. Mt 7:24-27), symbolizes any number of family situations shaped by the exercise of their members’ freedom, for, as the poet says, “every home is a lampstand.” Let us now enter one of those houses, led by the Psalmist with a song that even today resounds in both Jewish and Christian wedding liturgies:
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots round your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel! (Ps 128:1-6)
Let us cross the threshold of this tranquil home, with its family sitting around the festive table. At the center we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Mt 19:4). We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24).
The majestic early chapters of Genesis present the human couple in its deepest reality. Those first pages of the Bible make a number of very clear statements. The first, which Jesus paraphrases, says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). It is striking that the “image of God” here refers to the couple, “male and female.” Does this mean that sex is a property of God himself, or that God has a divine female companion, as some ancient religions held? Naturally, the answer is no. We know how clearly the Bible rejects as idolatrous such beliefs, found among the Canaanites of the Holy Land. God’s transcendence is preserved, yet inasmuch as he is also the Creator, the fruitfulness of the human couple is a living and effective “image,” a visible sign of his creative act.
The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon—not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue—capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:7; 17:2-5, 16; 28:3; 35:11; 48:3-4). This is why the Genesis account, following the “priestly tradition,” is interwoven with various genealogical accounts (cf. 4:17–22, 25-26; 5; 10; 11:10-32; 25:1-4, 12–17, 19–26; 36). The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses. Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection. Saint John Paul II shed light on this when he said, “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit.” The family is thus not unrelated to God’s very being. This Trinitarian dimension finds expression in the theology of Saint Paul, who relates the couple to the “mystery” of the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:21-33).
In speaking of marriage, Jesus refers us to yet another page of Genesis, which, in its second chapter, paints a splendid and detailed portrait of the couple. First, we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit for him” (vv. 18, 20), capable of alleviating the solitude which he feels amid the animals and the world around him. The original Hebrew suggests a direct encounter, face to face, eye to eye, in a kind of silent dialogue, for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words. It is an encounter with a face, a “thou,” who reflects God’s own love and is man’s “best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support,” in the words of the biblical sage (Sir 36:24). Or again, as the woman of the Song of Solomon will sing in a magnificent profession of love and mutual self-bestowal: “My beloved is mine and I am his . . . . I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (2:16; 6:3).
This encounter, which relieves man’s solitude, gives rise to new birth and to the family. Significantly, Adam, who is also the man of every time and place, together with his wife, starts a new family. Jesus speaks of this by quoting the passage from Genesis: “The man shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24). The very word “to be joined” or “to cleave,” in the original Hebrew, bespeaks a profound harmony, a closeness both physical and interior, to such an extent that the word is used to describe our union with God: “My soul clings to you” (Ps 63:8). The marital union is thus evoked not only in its sexual and corporal dimension, but also in its voluntary self-giving in love. The result of this union is that the two “become one flesh,” both physically and in the union of their hearts and lives, and, eventually, in a child, who will share not only genetically but also spiritually in the “flesh” of both parents.
According to the Church’s liturgical calendar, we call these next few months Ordinary Time. In the secular calendar, we call it summer. Do you remember learning about cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers when you were in school? Cardinal numbers are counting numbers, like 1, 2, and 3. Ordinal numbers tell the order of things, like first, second, and third. So Ordinary Time in the Church’s year doesn’t mean “unimportant,” but rather the ordered series of Sundays; the ordered life of the Church. This is the period in which we live our lives, not in feasting (Christmas and Easter), nor in severe penance (Lent and Advent), but in celebrating the life of Jesus in all its aspects. Depending on the year, there are 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time.
The crops get the whole summer to grow from small seed to mature plant. School children get the whole summer to absorb the learning of the last nine months. Christians get the whole summer to practice walking and talking with Jesus.
What are some things we might talk about on our walk with Jesus? Here are three suggestions:
Talk to Jesus about Christmas. There were probably Christmases when you were really anxious about getting a specific gift. Looking back, you might ask yourself, “why did I ever think that thing was so important? I don’t even know where it is today.” Christmas must have a deeper meaning than just getting things.
Talk to Jesus about Easter. Reflect on the conversations you and your family had: Did you talk more about the Easter bunny, or the Lamb? Did you take time to rediscover Jesus during Lent and Easter, or did you think that when all the chocolate was gone Easter was over too?
Listen to Jesus. The summer—Ordinary Time—is just getting started. Make time to listen to Jesus, and to let the seeds of Christmas and Easter grow in you.
We live in a small town in Alaska, about 300 miles away from the nearest city. While making this five and a half hour drive a few months ago, my husband and I listened to some of Matthew Kelly’s audiobooks as our little 7-year-old son, Christian, was in the backseat with an iPad, a personal DVD player, snacks, and small toys. I had no idea he was paying any attention to us or what we were listening to.
Every night since he was an infant, Christian has gone to bed with music, usually children’s lullabies and classical. At bedtime a few nights after we returned home from our trip to the city, I asked Christian what night-night music he wanted to listen to. He requested, “Matthew Kelly, Don’t Just Try…Train!”
For the past few months now, Christian has requested Matthew Kelly every night for his bedtime music. We’ve listened to Don’t Just Try…Train!, The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality, and Raising Amazing Children. He has even asked that our family culture include waiting for daddy to get home from work at 6:30 PM so we can have family dinner together.
Christian is now eight, and his favorite and most requested—only requested—night-night music is Don’t Just Try…Train!. He quotes Matthew Kelly all the time: “Human thought is creative,” and “The actions of our lives are created by our last most dominant thought.”
Tonight I downloaded The Jesus Question from iTunes, and we listened to it together as Christian fell asleep. Christian has high-functioning Autism, and he just received his first reconciliation and first Communion. It thrills me that he requests to listen to Matthew Kelly’s CDs as the last words he hears as he falls asleep. I can’t wait to see what else Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic develop to help parents raise wonderful, little Catholic children who grow up to become adults who positively impact the world.
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Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.