Embrace the grace of happiness as the family of God

| Deacon Gordon Bird | July 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

Family reunions are fun. I donned an old T-shirt this morning from a prior reunion that come August will be going 11 years strong. It carries on its back a quote from St. John Paul II: “The family is the center and the heart of the civilization of love.” Above the quote is a cross, shaped by the names of all the family members on my wife’s side, starting with her parents and ending with the youngest great-grandchild. That is, the youngest at the present reunion moment.

Summer is an opportune time to nurture relationships at family gatherings with those who live near and far away. That’s why families often do this annually or at least every few years. What perhaps is unique about this relatively young annual reunion of ours is how it started. It was not instigated by the sons, daughters or a remote blood-relative genealogist, but by the next generation — the grandchildren.

After their grandparents passed on in life, they truly desired that their own children continue to connect with their closest relatives to experience a domestic “civilization of love.” And not just for the nostalgia of the family farm venue — albeit a nice touch — but more to harness and grow the relationships at hand.

It was so encouraging to know that the grown-up, married grandchildren wanted their own children to experience some family happiness through the weekend’s integration of games, chatter, laughter, food, fireworks and faith. Those body, heart, soul and mind activities resonate when the clan parts ways until next time. They’re activities that make us happy.

God is all about happiness. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “God put us into the world to know, love, and serve him, and so come to [the happiness of] paradise.”

Catechism often references me to this truth, “of joy and beatitude over receiving our vocation as creatures: a sharing in the divine nature and vision of God.”

Being “Joyful Catholic Leaders” — the happy motto of The Seminaries of St. Paul — inspires many, and it may most certainly be a driver for us all.

This inspiration starts with the grace of happiness that God provides to us to embrace within family life. True happiness still may be very difficult to describe because knowing, loving and serving God takes it far beyond a feeling. And the grace of happiness, as with any grace of God, is not earned.

His gift of love to us as his adopted sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus, is that we are his family. It is the purest love with which God in his divine providence may allow us to cooperate.

Perhaps that is why the sacraments have this “spiritual order” to which I heard Bishop Robert Barron speak some time back in a homily, with the “birth of the spiritual order” being baptism. When parents, other family members and friends bring children in to be baptized, the sanctuary illuminates with joy and happiness — I challenge anyone to find a lasting frown. And holy baptism — the gateway to the Christian life — is just the start of true happiness as a child of God.

To help the fallen human condition, God also gives us the Eucharist as spiritual food, penance to get it right, confirmation to confirm our baptism and witness to the faith, matrimony and holy orders to live out our vocation, and anointing of the sick for spiritual and physical healing. We live sacramental lives in communion and in reunion with the family of God.

Jesus instituted these sacraments to help us go about our lives to know, love and serve God — and our neighbor.

“We must endure many trials before entering God’s kingdom” (Acts 14:21). Today, it is difficult to deal with those experiences that do not tend to help us behave good-naturedly. Throughout life we are left to wrestle with our own afflictions and challenges as well as with those for whom we love and care. We talk about those things at family reunions. That is not as much fun. Yet, it can be healing.

We have in our arsenal of encouragement the impact of the life, death and resurrection of Christ to give us hope. The apostles learned this through Jesus’ ministry and experienced it in the early Church — as a family of God.

Hence, they would strengthen each other through times of tribulation with prayer, giving of self and works of mercy — spiritual, material and physical. “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pt 4:13).

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount, All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at thecatholicwatchmen.com.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen