‘Amoris Laetitia’ – the Joy of Love21 October, 2021
Amoris Laetitia is the 2016 exhortation that Pope Francis offered to the families of the world. In it, he treasures the strength and the beauty of family life while recognising the difficulties and challenges that each and every family face. In the midst of its soaring inspiration, his reflections remain rooted in the reality of our broken world.
Over the next number of months, we will make our way, chapter by chapter through Amoris Laetitia, offering a series of reflections written by different people in our diocese. By this we hope to strengthen and inspire you in the God-given gift of the family.
Chapter 1 In the Light of the Word
As we would expect from such a Church Document, Pope Francis begins by reflecting on the experience and teaching of the Scriptures. In the opening paragraph he states: the Bible is full of families, births, love songs and family crises. Well, I have never looked at the Scriptures quite like that: the Word revealed in the dynamic of family life.
You and Your Wife
Drawing on Genesis especially, we are shown how the love of a couple is the image that reveals to us the ‘face’ of God. In this relationship of love, we see God, the Creator and Saviour, and, as this love brings forth new life, the family becomes for us the great image of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who live in self-giving love towards each other. The Book of Genesis testifies to the deep solitude in the human heart that finds its fulfillment in union with another, the beloved.
Your Children are as Shoots of the Olive Tree
Pope Francis makes the interesting comment that the most common word in the Old Testament after the name of God is the word for ‘child’. We are all someone’s child, many of us have children. This familial relationship is, in a real way, the web by which human community is made. Family is the domestic Church, where we learn to pray, to serve and grow in love of God. Parents are to be honoured and children are to be respected. Their independence, as they grow into their unique mission from God, is to be respected.
A Path of Suffering and Blood
All that has been said so far is wonderful but the reality is that families, our families, live in a broken world. And this the Scriptures show. In the opening chapters of Genesis, we see families torn by jealousy and hatred, even to the point of murder. In the New Testament, we see Jesus’ family fleeing as refugees. Jesus himself visits families with illness, families grieving, families stressed and struggling. There in the midst of those realities, he offers comfort and strength.
The Work of your Hands
Work is an integral part of human life. Through it, we share in God’s creative work. We build up human society and offer sustenance and stability to our families. But work is also where we struggle. It can be difficult and dangerous. We can have too much or suffer the poverty and hunger of unemployment. What should be for the enhancement of our society can become the means of its degeneration.
The Tenderness of an Embrace
It is in this section that Pope Francis makes his distinctive contribution. He shows the capacity of family life to engender in us a tenderness in love: spouses for each other, parents towards their children. As this tenderness is fostered in us, we contemplate more easily the love of God, Father Son and Spirit. Finally, we are asked to look to the Holy Family of Nazareth and recognise how they experienced many of the challenges that face us. We are asked to be like Mary as she faces with courage and serenity the challenges of life, knowing that God could do great things in her, as he can in us, in our families.
In this first chapter, Pope Francis has shown a lively, even poetic, interpretation of the stories from the Scriptures as he gleans wisdom from a number of stories. What stories from the Scripture have enlightened you as you seek to love and serve your family?
Sr Kym Harris osb