QUALITY TIME AND MEANINGFUL PRESENCE AS SOLUTIONS TO FAMILY CRISIS
With the euphoria of the Christmas tide and consciousness of the year’s ending, this is an appropriate time to review the status of one’s family life. And with the opening of a New Year, this review provides the family with the opportunity to strive where weaknesses exist. Unfortunately these days, we talk more of equality than complimentary roles [of parents], and of liberty and rights, than of respect and responsibilities, which all leave us with many broken marriages and broken homes. Why do we do permanently stupid things because we are temporally upset? In the face of family challenges, we should, while doing our best to make things better, not forget to look on to the Holy Family as models of both the joys and pain of family life. Thus it’s a passionate call on all to sit down and evaluate one’s family in the light of the quality time we give to our various families as the greatest of our investments.
On a day like this one may ask, what is a family? What is a Christian family? Family is a unite society made of people with common blood relation or relationship born of semblance of interest. Nevertheless, Christian family can be said to constitute a specific realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church. It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament (Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col 3:18-21). It is also a group of persons who come together either by blood relation or reason of faith. For better clarity, the interest here is family as a blood relation. What is the role of the family in society? The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honour God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society (C.C.C. 2207).
Children owe the obligation of respect for parents (filial piety) which derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. With all your heart honour your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you (Sir. 7:27-28)?. For the Lord honoured the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons (Mk. 7:10-12). Whoever honours his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honours his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother. Thus Sir. 3:2-6 teaches; ‘O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him’
And what about the duties of the parents in the family? “The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.
The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called the domestic church, a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. The conjugal community is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities. The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family therefore has an evangelizing and missionary task.
The practicality of these values afore mentioned are realizable through quality-shared time in the family. A Christian family remains tepid and unproductive if the parents do not spend quality time with the family. Quality time here implies a good attitudinal disposition towards the family-eating together, praying together, going on picnic together, It is a situation where the father of the house is attitudinally disposed to hear the heart beat of his wife and children. Hearing their smiles even when they aren’t present and hearing their cries even from a distance. It is a situation whereby there exists the power of telepathy among the family members. This is only possible when there is affinity among the members. Nevertheless, when this is achieved; with time husband and wife begin to grow from emotional affinity to phenomenological semblance.
On a day like this, we remember the popular story/drama of a boy and his father. Greeting his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father was surprised and said: “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insisted. The father finally gave up and replied: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continued, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yelled at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thought over what he said and started feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he went to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asked the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replied the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replied the boy and received the money. Then he reached under his pillow and brought out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” said the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family life.