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Love and forgiveness in the family

THE FAMILY IS where we learn the value of forgiveness. At the closing of the Synod on Family Life, Pope Francis said that forgiving, or seeking forgiveness, not only helps families bind together and grow, but also contributes towards the development of a more humane society.

The bishops at the synod reiterated family values and emphasised the need to help those whose marriage relationships have fallen apart to remain part of Church life.

The introduction to the final report says, “The Church constantly keeps in the mind the families of the world, their joys and hopes, their grief and anguish.” God created human beings and blessed them, male and female to unite in love and mutual self-giving. The family is a place of love and also the first school of love.

However, family life in modern society is challenged by cultural, social and economic systems. Many people feel lonely and distressed. They say they do not cherish the love of their families, but at the same time, they crave the experience of a loving family.

Although our city boasts many beautiful houses, there is a lack of homes. Some people suspect that the family values of together-for-life, loyalty and procreation are now outdated concepts.

The synod reminded us that the sacrament of matrimony blesses a mutually-faithful, indissoluble union between a man and a woman. They are called to accept each other, to be open to new life and to receive God’s grace, so that they can shoulder family responsibilities, regardless of circumstance.

Although the international media focussed on issues of readmission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, as well as same-sex unions, what the synod was concerned about is much broader.

Its agenda included domestic violence, child abuse, interreligious marriage, the impact of poverty and war on families, incest and polygamy, to name a few.

The vocation of Christian families is to bear witness to the mercy of Christ by living it out. In his pastoral letter entitled, Human Ecology and The Family: Strengthen Marriage, Not Redefine It!, John Cardinal Tong Hon said that the Church should protect the integrity of marriage. This does not attack the dignity that belongs to every human being regardless of their sexual orientation or belief, but expresses a desire to protect marriage as lived in the Catholic faith.

When electing social leaders and representatives, it is essential to be concerned about the candidates’ philosophy and practice on issues like democracy, people’s livelihood, justice, freedom, the rich-poor gap and care for the disadvantaged. Their stance on issues of the family and marriage should also be a factor for consideration.

Today, family life is facing many challenges. The Church must listen to the suffering of families, accompany them and walk with them on their journey, as well as learn to forgive and to be forgiven.

Forgiveness can mend the cracks in families and alleviate strife in society, enabling people to see the light and grasp the hope.

As the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy begins, we hope that the family can become a place of love and forgiveness, and that people will experience the family as an indispensable foundation in society and not merely a meaningless social institution. SE