Family matters

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says these words to us, but sometimes they are hard to take. Every age seems to have its share of troubles. Today, we are concerned about the family. Archbishop Ndlovu of Harare told a recent meeting of church leaders at St Paul’s, Musami: “We used to talk of a husband, wife and children when we talked of a family, but no longer.”

The archbishop went on to remind us that many children have a single parent or grand-parent or no parent at all. Some single parents might have been left by their spouses who went off to the diaspora and don’t return. From both the legal and the church point of view the spouse, nearly always the wife, is left high and dry. And the children suffer. The archbishop, echoing Pope Francis, calls us to understanding, compassion and care, not condemnation or judgement.

Family life is a beautiful reality when it is lived intentionally; focused on each other and not on self. We have all seen countless families where the father, no matter how often drawn away by work, constantly returns home to the centre of his life. Children do not feel abandoned, even though there are periods when one or other parent is away.

An idealistic view of family serves no-one and sometimes the “Holy Family” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is portrayed as such. It is surely likely that there were all the worries and heart aches of any stretched family there in Nazareth. It would have hardly been human if there were not moments of irritation, anger or impatience. Jesus in his adult life was driven to the limit by his disciples. “Do you still not understand? Are your minds closed? Do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17)

It is how we deal with the emotions, tensions and frustrations that arise in the family that marks it out as a happy family or a dysfunctional one. The Christian message of commitment, “till death do us part,” serves as anchor to hold us from drifting too far. We come back again and again to this foundation so that the rough and smooth in family life eventually produces that contentment and peace that we often see in old people.

So, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’ is sound advice here, as in many other ways.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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