The family is the future


Extract from the talk given by Chiara Lubich in Lucerne, Switzerland on 16th May 1999, on the occasion of the 19th International Congress on the Family

            If we observe the situation of the society that surrounds us all over the world, our brief reflections on what the family is and should be may appear to be a naïve utopia.  The Western world is permeated by an individualistic culture that is particularly focused on categorizing and defining men and women according to what they use and need. … In a cultural context marked by individualism and the pursuit of profit, the family has become very fragile. And those who are socially marginalized are the ones whose families most often break up.”[1]

Faced with the overwhelming mystery of suffering, we often feel bewildered and lost. There is a passage in the Bible that describes a person who reached the climax of suffering, and cried out to heaven, “Why?”  The evangelist Matthew, who recounts the passion and death of Jesus, wrote: “At about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice (…), ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mt 27:46). …

In experiencing the abandonment, which was the final and greatest sign of his love, Christ reaches the point of total annihilation of self. He reopens for every person the path to unity with God and with one another. In that “why,” to which he received no answer, every man and woman finds an answer to his or her own cry. Is not the person in anguish similar to him? And the one who is alone or a failure or condemned? Is not every division within the family and among groups and peoples, a reflection of him? Can’t we see his countenance in those who have lost all sense of who God is and of his plan for humanity, or in those who no longer believe in love and instead accept whatever surrogate comes their way?

There is no human tragedy or failure within a family that is not contained in that dark night of the God-Man. …

Through that emptiness, that nothingness, grace and the life of God flowed back to humanity. Christ re-established the unity between God and creation, he restored the design, he made new men and new women and, therefore, new families.

The great event of the suffering and abandonment of the God-Man can therefore become the reference point and the secret wellspring capable of transforming death into resurrection, shortcomings into opportunities to love, and family crisis into stages of growth. How can this be done? …  If we believe that behind the events of our lives there is God with his love, and if, strengthened by this faith, we recognize in our small or larger daily sufferings, and those of others, a shadow of the pain of the crucified and forsaken Christ, a sharing in his suffering that redeemed the world, then it is possible to understand the meaning of the most absurd situations and put them into perspective.

I would like to mention two real-life examples that illustrate this.

Claudette was a young French woman abandoned by her husband. She had a one-year-old son. The narrow-minded environment of the province she lived in and of her family convinced her to ask for a divorce. In the meantime, she came to know a couple that spoke to her about God, who is especially close to those who suffer. “Jesus loves you,” they told her. “He, like you, was also betrayed and abandoned. In him you can find the strength to love and to forgive.” Little by little, her feelings of resentment dissipated and she began to behave differently. Her attitude also had an effect on her husband. In fact, when Claudette and Laurent presented themselves before the judge for their first hearing, they looked at one another in a new way and agreed to put off their decision for six months. Having reopened the lines of communication between them, when they were called back to court to finalize the divorce, they said, “No!” and walked down the steps of the courthouse hand in hand. The birth of two more daughters gave new joy to their love, which had become deeply rooted through their experience of suffering.

And another. A beautiful Swiss family one evening learned from their son that he was addicted to drugs. They tried in vain to cure him. One day he did not come home. They were overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, fear, shame and the sense of being unable to do anything about it. It was the encounter with Jesus Forsaken in a “wound” that is so common in our society. Embracing Jesus Forsaken in this suffering they seemed to comprehend: “True love makes itself one with others, it enters into the reality that they are living…. ” In a spirit of solidarity, they opened themselves to others who were suffering because of drug abuse. They organized a group of families who would bring sandwiches and tea to all the youth of the Platzpitz, which at the time was known as the drugs hell of Zurich. One day they found their son there, dressed in rags and exhausted. With the aid of other families, they were able to help him embark on, and complete, his long journey to freedom. …

Sometimes the traumas are resolved and families are reunited, but at times they are not. Externally the situations may remain as they were, but the pain takes on meaning, the anguish is eased and the fracture is overcome. At times, the physical or spiritual suffering lingers on, but it acquires meaning because the family unites its “passion” to the passion of Christ, who continues to redeem and save the family and all of humanity. And thus their burden becomes lighter.

Therefore, the family can attempt to reacquire its original beauty in its creator’s design by drawing from the source of love that Christ brought on earth.

Chiara Lubich

[1] Chiesa Locale e Famiglia, (CLEF) Agenzia di informazione e documentazione di pastorale familiare, 49, anno XIII, marzo 1995, p. 15.

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