Familia Dei

     

„Baptism and the Eucharist are now the means by which men and women are
incorporated into God’s covenant
family. They mark the Christian’s covenant oath, common meal, and sacrifice. The word “sacrament” itself witnesses to this truth.
‘Sacrament” comes from the Latin sacramentum, which means “oath,” and the word
was applied to Baptism and the Eucharist from the earliest days of the Church.
The pagan Roman governor Pliny the Younger recorded that Christians in his time (the end of the first century) would gather before sunrise to sing hymns to Christ, after which they would “bind themselves by an oath.’ This is the sacramentum, the oath, which seals the
covenant: the Holy Eucharist. Jesus Himself described His relationship with the Church in explicitly covenantal terms. At the Last Supper, He blessed the cup of the new covenant in
His Blood (cf. Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). This makes a big difference in our life; for now, as Christians, we can call God ‘Abba! Father!’ (Gal. 4:4–6). We are truly children of God (cf. Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1–2), brothers and sisters and mothers of Christ (cf. Mk. 3:35), Who is the ‘first-born among many brethren’ (Rom.8:29). Christians are ‘members of the household of God’
(Eph. 2:19). The primary revelation of Jesus Christ
is God’s fatherhood (cf. Jn. 15).
Jesus reveals God first as Father to Himself, and then,
by extension, to Christians,
as ‘sons in the Son’. . . “ — From „Scripture Matters“
Scripture Matters: Essays on Reading the Bible from the Heart of the Church.

Stehe an der Spitze, um zu dienen, nicht um zu herrschen.
Bernhard von Clairvaux

The civilization of love—that is, civilization itself—requires that we live as if what we
say is true about God really is true, not just a warm personal sentiment or a peculiar family tradition. It requires that we honor Him as if He really is our Creator and sustainer, cleave to the Church as if her sacraments were really efficacious, and love God and our neighbor as if grace really can elevate and perfect every bit of our soul. When we do this—when we live the fullness of truth in justice to God and man—we reveal the civilization of love not just as a possibility but as the deep reality of creation itself. We have been brought into being and are sustained in being by the God who is Love. Therefore, love is not the exception, not a foreign input to an otherwise sterile cosmos; love is the very grammar of existence that
gives meaning, rooted in Jesus Christ, to everything we see and hear and touch.
Without love, we are nothing (see 1 Cor 13:1–3). With love, which includes doing justice
to God through the virtue of religion, our souls and our civilization can be more beautiful
than anything our secular, idolatrous, nihilistic culture can imagine. . .

– From “It Is Right and Just” Available at https://bit.ly/2GtpyVq

Jesus said a strange thing just before He went to His passion and death. He told His
disciples, “I will not leave you orphans” ( Jn 14:18). Some translations render the last
word as “desolate,” but the Greek word is orphanous, which means, literally, a child with-
out either father or mother. In the ancient world, orphans were those who had no family to care for them, no place to live. They were desolate, outcast by circumstance, the poorest of the poor. Since Jesus was going away, He knew the anxieties His disciples would feel.
For three years, He had been family to them—a father figure, a patriarch, an elder brother.
He wanted to assure them that He would not leave them homeless or without a family. . .

– From “First Comes Love” Available at http://bit.ly/2WVUD6q

Nowhere is this so striking as in Jesus’ descriptions of His relationship to God,
Whom He dared to call “Father.” For Jesus, God is not “father” in a metaphorical sense.
Nor is God “father” to Jesus merely through the act of creation. On the contrary, Jesus’
sonship is something real, unique, and personal (see CCC, no. 240). God, to Jesus Christ,
is “Abba”—which means “Daddy” or “Papa” (see Mk 14:36) …
Indeed, the ancients approached God’s fatherhood only with extreme caution.
In Israel, the Twelve Tribes understood themselves collectively to be the “Family of God,” but in something more than a metaphorical sense, because God created them, guided them, protected them, and provided for them—as a father begets, guides, protects, and provides for his family. God, then, acted as a father to the nation of Israel (see Dt 32:6;
Jer 31:9). Individually, however, Israelites tended to refer to themselves not as God’s
children, but as His “servants” or “slaves” (see, for example, 1 Sm 3:9 and Ps 116:16).
Even the greatest of the patriarchs, Abraham, could be called God’s “friend” (Is 41:8),
but not His son. . .

— from my book “First Comes Love” at bit.ly/2WVUD6q

What is a covenant?
The question leads us back to the primal reality we discussed earlier in this chapter:
the family. In the ancient Near East, a covenant was a sacred kinship bond based on a
solemn oath that brought someone into a family relationship with another person or tribe. When God made His covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, He was
gradually inviting a wider circle of people into His family: first a couple, then a family,
then a nation, and eventually the world. All of those covenants failed, however, because of man’s unfaithfulness and sin. God remained constantly faithful; Adam did not, and neither did Moses, neither did David. In fact, sacred history leads us to conclude that only God keeps His covenant promises. How, then, could mankind fulfill the human end of a covenant in a way that would last forever? That would require a man to be sinless and as constant as God. Thus, for the new and everlasting covenant, God became man in Jesus Christ, and He established the covenant by which we become part of His family: the family of God.
This means more than mere fellowship with God. For “God in His deepest mystery is …
a family.” God Himself is Father, Son, and the Spirit of Love—and Christians are drawn up
into the life of that family. In baptism we are identified with Christ, baptized in the Trini-
tarian name of God; we take on His family name, and thus we become sons in the Son.
We are taken up into the very life of the Trinity, where we may live in love forever.
If God is family, heaven is home; and with Jesus, heaven has come to earth. . .

– From “Hail Holy Queen” Available at https://goo.gl/bNjMB3

„Mary is the image of the Church, the image of believing man, who can come to salvation and to himself only through the gift of love—through grace. . . She does not contest or endanger the exclusiveness of salvation through Christ; she points to it. She represents mankind, which as a whole is expectation and which needs this image all the more when it is
in danger of giving up waiting and putting its trust in doing, which—indispensable as it is—can never fill the void that threatens man when he does not find that absolute love which gives him meaning, salvation, all that is truly necessary in order to live.“

Joseph Ratzinger, „Introduction to Christianity“

God has given us a new family, bound by His New Covenant. What, then, are we to make
of our natural families? Quite simply, we are to make them heaven. To become all that God has made us to be, we must grow ever more perfectly in His divine image. That means we must give ourselves completely. Now, except in the extraordinary case of martyrdom, we cannot do this all at once—and we can never do it alone. We grow perfect in the image of God only as we “become Christ,” in communion with Christ and in communion with others, in communion with the Church. Where does this begin? It begins, ordinarily, in our natural families, which God intends to be the fundamental unit of the Church. The Church and the family are more than “communities”; each is, like the Trinity, a communion of persons.
And so they also bear a family resemblance to one another. As the Church is a universal
family, the individual family is “the domestic Church” (see CCC, no. 1656).
Through marriage, which is a sacrament of the New Covenant, a household receives a
new family resemblance to God. St. Paul wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before
the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14–15).
Earthly families, then, receive their “name,” their identity, their character, from God
Himself. They are made in His image.

— from my book “First Comes Love” at bit.ly/2WVUD6q

From Jesus himself we have learned to go to the angels, and so we go to our personal
guardian angels and St. Michael, too. We should know their presence, as Saints Peter and Paul did in the Acts of the Apostles. And we should speak with them, as St. John did in the Book of Revelation, and as the prophets did in the Old Testament. We may do this silently, in our souls. We are spiritual beings as the angels are, and we can communicate with
them through the ways of prayer.
As we become familiar with them, we will be more attuned to their promptings as we go about our everyday life. We can approach not only our own guardian angels, but those of our family members—spouse, children, grandchildren—asking their help in building up
our relationships. We can make them our partners in a holy conspiracy as we try to draw friends and neighbors and co-workers into a deeper life of faith. It was customary, through most of the twentieth century, to invoke St. Michael’s help at the end of every Mass.
Congregations prayed the prayer promoted by Pope Leo XIII at the end of the nineteenth century—a prayer he composed, reportedly, after an extraordinary and ominous vision
of spiritual warfare as it would unfold in the coming years.
“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
In the visions reported in the Books of Daniel and Revelation, St. Michael appears as playing a special role in the execution of divine justice and mercy. Thus he is often invoked at the hour of death. For this reason, deathbed prayers often call upon him.
The Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael and All Angels on September 29 and the feast of the Guardian Angels on October 2. We have a lot to celebrate on those days. By God’s design, the angels are active in our life, from the time we are conceived to the moment of our earthly end. Our moments go better if we work with the angels, as the Scriptures show!

—from my book “Angels and Saints” at bit.ly/2WSJ7Zx

As He hung dying on the cross, in His last will and testament, Jesus left us a mother.
“When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26–27). We are His beloved disciples, His younger siblings (see Heb 2:12). His heavenly home is ours, His Father is ours, and His mother is ours. Yet how many Christians are taking her to their homes? Moreover, how many Christian churches are fulfilling the New Testament prophecy that “all generations” will call Mary “blessed” (Lk 1:48) Most Protestant ministers—and here I speak from my own past experience—avoid even mentioning the mother of Jesus, for fear they’ll be accused of crypto-Catholicism. Sometimes the most zealous members of their congregations have been influenced by shrill anti-Catholic polemics. To them, Marian devotion is idolatry that puts Mary between God and man or exalts Mary at Jesus’ expense. Thus, you’ll sometimes find Protestant churches named after Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint James, or Saint John—but rarely one named for Saint Mary. You’ll frequently find pastors preaching on Abraham or David, Jesus’ distant ancestors, but almost never hear a sermon on Mary,
His mother. Far from calling her blessed, most generations of Protestants live their lives
without calling her at all. This is not just a Protestant problem. Too many Catholics and
Orthodox Christians have abandoned their rich heritage of Marian devotions.
They’ve been cowed by the polemics of fundamentalists, shamed by the snickering of
dissenting theologians, or made sheepish by well meaning but misguided ecumenical
sensitivities. They’re happy to have a mom who prays for them, prepares their meals,
and keeps their home; they just wish she’d stay safely out of sight when others are
around who just wouldn’t understand.

—from my book “Hail, Holy Queen” at bit.ly/2OvkBLZ

Another major difference between contracts and covenants may be discovered in their
very distinctive forms of exchange. A contract is the exchange of property in the form of goods and services (“That is mine and this is yours”); whereas a covenant calls for the
exchange of persons (“I am yours and you are mine”), creating a shared bond of inter-
personal communion. For ancient Israelites, a covenant differed from a contract about as much as marriage differed from prostitution. When a man and woman marry, they declare before God their undying love to one another until death, but a prostitute sells her body
to the highest bidder and then moves on to the next customer. So contracts make people customers, employees, clients; whereas covenants turn them into spouses, parents,
children, siblings. In short, covenants are made to forge bonds of sacred kinship.
Scripture reveals how God has used covenants to forge family bonds with his people in every age. This is echoed in the common formula used throughout Scripture to describe God’s covenant bond with us: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.…
I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters” (2 Cor 6:16–18).
Of course, the climax of the process is the New Covenant, when Christ opened up the inner family life of the Trinity for all of us to share. So if you want to get to the heart of Scripture, think covenant not contract, father not judge, family room not courtroom; God’s laws and judgments are meant to be interpreted as signs of his fatherly love, wisdom and authority. This does not imply a lower or less strict standard of justice, however, since a good father requires more from his son than the judge expects from a defendant, or the boss from his employee. The terms of a covenant call for certain actions to merit rewards or benefits, while a breach of the commitment results in specific penalties and damages. This follows the pattern of family life, where children work to get an allowance, and when they grow up and prove their maturity, they can reasonably expect to be rewarded with an inheritance.
However, if they persist in serious sin, they face the prospect of disinheritance.
This is the biblical pattern of the covenant as well, for the Father blesses his children when they keep the covenant, just as he punishes them for breaking it. All of this is spelled out in the covenant, in terms of blessings and curses (see Dt 28). The blessings mean life, while the curses mean death; so God urges his people to choose life and behave in such a way
as to enjoy his fatherly blessing.

—from my book “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” at bit.ly/2M88vtj

The Book of Revelation, like the Letter to the Hebrews, shows the deep communion between the Church’s sacramental worship on earth and the angels’ spiritual worship in the courts of heaven. We should note that even angels pray by swearing oaths (see Rev 10:5–6). This common worship makes for powerful prayer before the throne of God. Indeed, this heavenly-earthly worship appears as the driving force in the history of the world.
History unfolds, in Revelation, as a series of covenant blessings and curses. John portrays earthly destruction in terms of a terrible Passover. Seven angels pour out the seven chalices of God’s wrath, which issue in seven plagues. The emptying of the chalices is a liturgical action, a libation of wine poured upon the land. (Indeed, both sevens and liturgical images abound in Revelation: There are seven golden lampstands, seven spirits, seven stars, seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven chalices—to name just seven.)
In light of the Passover’s fulfillment in the Eucharist, this imagery becomes all the more striking. Chapters 15 to 17 of Revelation show us the seven plagues within a liturgical
setting: The angels appear with harps, vested as priests in the heavenly Temple;
they sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (ch. 15). This liturgy means death to God’s enemies, but salvation to His Church. Thus, the angels cry: “For men have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is their due!”
(Rev 16:6). Passover, the Eucharist, and the heavenly liturgy, then, are two-edged swords.
While the chalices of the covenant bring life to the faithful, they mean certain death to those who reject the covenant. In the New Covenant, as in the Old, God gives man the choice between life and death, blessing and curse (see Dt 30:19). To choose the covenant is to choose eternal life in God’s family. To reject the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is to
choose one’s own death.

– From my book “Swear to God” Available at https://bit.ly/3eqrGeI

Among the liveliest traditions in the ancient Church was devotion to the guardian angels. Yet it is something that modern readers often miss. The dramatic plot of the Acts of the Apostles is borne forward by the action of angels. Angels set the apostles free from prison (5:19, 12:7). An angel guides Philip from Jerusalem to Gaza for his fateful meeting with the Ethiopian court official (8:26). Angels bring about the meeting of Peter and Cornelius (10:3–5). My favorite instance is when Peter arrives at a house church, and the people
assume that it’s not Peter, but rather his angel (12:15)!
The story of the Church moves forward with the guidance, protection, and assistance of
angels. So do our lives. The early Christians knew this. That’s why they could easily mistake a man for his guardian angel. Since Peter was imprisoned, they would naturally be surprised to find him at the door, but they were not surprised to encounter his angel!
We need to have such faith and such a lively awareness of our guardian angels.
For God has given us—each of us—the same powerful heavenly guidance, protection, and assistance. Devotion to the angels did not arise as something new with the proclamation
of the Gospel. It has always been a part of biblical religion. Angels fill the Bible, from beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation. They are key players in the drama of the Garden of Eden. They appear frequently in the life of the patriarchs: Jacob even wrestles with one. They go before the Israelites during the exodus. They deliver God’s word to the prophets. The prophets themselves reveal that even nations have guardian angels. The book of Tobit shows us how an angel guided a young man to recover his family’s fortune, discover a cure for his father’s blindness, and find a beautiful and virtuous wife along the way!
The New Testament opens with an explosion of angelic activity. Neither Joseph nor Mary seems particularly surprised to receive the help of angels.

—from my book “Signs of Life” Available at bit.ly/36hUEY9

The little things we do are the building blocks of the big things God has planned, in our
lives, in history, and in the spinning out of the cosmos. Indeed, little things matter so much to us because they matter so much to God. That is the plain meaning of Jesus’s parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–31)—a parable of ambition. Twice in that parable Jesus portrays the master (representing God) as saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant;
you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your
master.” It’s the little things that count, even for God. For in our attention to little things,
we imitate Him most perfectly. Our God is the master of the universe, whose mind and power are evident in the formation of the Himalayas, but also in the movement of subatomic particles.And He doesn’t move mountains without moving a whole lot of electrons
in the process!

A quote from my book “Ordinary Work Extraordinary Grace”, available at bit.ly/2WcM1bn

Wir müssen nicht denken, dass unsere Liebe außergewöhnlich zu sein hat. Aber dennoch müssen wir lieben ohne müde zu werden. Wie brennt eine Öllampe? Durch einen ständigen Tropfen Öl, der nachfließt. Diese Tropfen sind wie die kleinen Dinge des alltäglichen Lebens: Treue, kleine freundliche Worte, eine Kleinigkeit, die dem anderen zeigt, dass wir
an ihn dachten, die Art und Weise wie wir miteinander still sein können, wie wir schauen, sprechen und uns verhalten. Dies sind die wahren Tropfen der Liebe, die unsere Leben
und Beziehungen am Leuchten halten wie eine kleine lebendige Flamme.
Mutter Teresa (1910 – 5. September 1997)