Summer: A time to celebrate the gift of family
It is finally summer. Winter has ended at last, and we can enjoy good weather. In the midst of winter, I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visiting the places where Jesus had walked. It was a beautiful experience, one which helped those on this pilgrimage to deepen our appreciation of the Gospel, as we visited places made holy by the presence of Jesus. Because of winter here in Maine, we even got to spend an extra day in Bethlehem due to a snowstorm raging along the east coast which grounded our flight home.
One of the places we visited was Cana, the place where, in John’s Gospel, Jesus works His first miracle. In the story, Jesus attends a wedding. His family is also there. It is Mary, His mother, who tells Him that the wine has run low. She asks Him to solve the problem. In response, Jesus changes the water in the large stone jars at the entrance of the house into wine. Each of those jars, we are told, held some 20 gallons of water. Thus, this first miracle of Jesus shows us the overflowing generosity of God. A small amount of wine would not be enough. It would be over 100 gallons that He makes!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that Jesus’ presence at this wedding feast at Cana is of great importance. Being there, and showing His concern for the couple, confirms the goodness of marriage. By his miraculous act at Cana, Jesus also proclaims that marriage will always be a sign of His presence. In a real and concrete way, the love of husband and wife shows us Jesus’ love for His Church. That, for us, is the foundation of the vocation of marriage. “Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us” (AL 121). Seeing the self-giving love of husband and wife lived out in their care for their family points us to Jesus’ love for us, His brothers and sisters. “The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love” (AL 53).
It seems to me that summer gives us a good time, as husbands and wives, parents and children, grandparents, brothers and sisters, to seek ways in which we can renew our appreciation for the wonderful gift God has given us in marriage and the family. For all the challenges we might find in families, we can always grow, beginning with love, in the ability to care for each other. The simple, ordinary things we do for each other in families truly make visible the love of Jesus for His Church.
Some suggestions I might make:
We have all been looking forward to summer, and those activities we want to do, swimming, boating, fishing, golf, etc. Make sure these activities leave time for each other. Summer is a slower time of year. It can, then, be a time not just for doing, but for being together.
Try to set aside some time for meals together. Begin those meals with a prayer, thanking God for the good things that are on the table, but pray, as well, in gratitude for the good people who are with me around the table, the family. While at the table, listen to each other, talk about things that are happening. It takes time and effort to get conversation going but knowing that someone is listening to me and hearing what I am saying is an assurance of love and acceptance, fundamental to the life of each member of the family. And the conversation needs to be conducted without any electronic devices. Shut off the phones and devices while sharing a meal. What could be more important than the precious time summer gives us to be present to each other?
Pray together. Family prayer is a special way of passing on our faith that God is in our lives. “A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God to tell Him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle” (AL 318). The most important way in which families can pray together is at Mass. Make Sunday a time for the family to attend church together and be nourished in the communion that Jesus gives us. He shows us love and gives us life.
While we were at Cana, the couples on pilgrimage renewed their marriage vows. We prayed, as well, for all married couples and their families. Surrounded by those stone jars, so like the ones of Jesus’ time overflowing with wine, we were reminded of the abundant love of God for each of us. That love is found first in the family. This summer, make a special effort to drink from the abundance of Go