The little girl was learning to ride her two-wheeler. Her mom, dad and older sister were watching and giving her a hand when she needed assistance. We were privileged to watch this endeavor on our street. One could see the pride and joy on each face as they cheered her on when she got the hang of it and made it down the street turning with finesse on the cul-de-sac. The support was palpable.
It is at this time of year when school and religious education programs begin that one begins to understand the importance of the family as the “domestic Church.” We often think only of Church as the time when we gather with others for weekly worship. We might think of Church when we celebrate parish activities. Church is so much more than that as it exists outside the four walls of the building and outside the institutional structure of Pope, bishops and priests. It is much grander than that and it begins with family.
During the past weeks, we have heard from the community of John what is known as the “bread of life” discourse. We might have struggled to understand the meaning of sharing the presence of the Risen Christ under the form of consecrated bread and wine. We have learned the meaning of meeting the Risen Christ in the sacraments. The Sacred Rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, Holy Orders and Matrimony are how we meet the Risen Lord through a sacred ritual. Do we understand, however, that the Risen Christ is met in the ordinariness of family life? Whenever a family eats a meal together Christ is present. Whenever forgiveness and reconciliation are practiced, Christ is present. Whenever wounds are bound and illnesses are cared for, Christ is present. When commitment in friendship is practiced no matter the circumstances, Christ is present. When the members of a family are treated with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is present in each person, Christ is present.
Without the “domestic Church,” the family, the concepts of the sacraments cannot be understood. At this time of year when families are committed to a new start with their children, let us pray for them as they persevere in revealing the Risen Christ in the very ordinariness of family life.