Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

In his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis recalls this and similar stories about families in the Bible. He writes, “The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses.”

Jesus’ healing of the possessed boy is then, more than an act of compassion for a suffering child and his bewildered father. It is a healing of “salvation history,” at least for this family. This kerygma, as the Holy Father calls it, will remain in this family for many generations to come.

Christian families present a “path along which the history of salvation progresses.” Along with the stories of my great-grandfather (a Texas cowboy), my great-grandmother a Methodist teacher fired because she got married, and my dad swimming in the Ohio River, I heard stories and saw pictures of my parents’ and grandparents’ first communion and weddings. I heard about a distant relative, a priest, who “went to prison in Louisiana” – as a chaplain to the inmates. My family was Catholic as far back as family lore could remember; from when refugees of the Irish potato famine and the continental wars of Europe met in America.

The Acts of the Apostles records families coming en masse to the faith. This was not a decision for the “individual.” There was no such creature in Roman times. Rather a man, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, his in-laws and slaves and other hangers-on came together.

Then (the jailor) brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And (the apostles) said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. Acts of the Apostles 16:30-34

The Church urges us to pray for the healing and restoration of the family. Children learn to make sacrifice by their experience of family; first by watching their parents and then by being told to “share and share alike” with their siblings. They grasp diversity when they realize Dad is from Mars and Mom is from Venus. They comprehend cooperation when they see their parents – who share most (but not all) values – making compromises for the sake of unity. Without that formation they will be ill-prepared to take up the cross daily and follow in Jesus’ steps.

Today, as we watch the disintegration of the family, we can admire the father in today’s story. Like us, he is at his wit’s end. He appeals directly to Jesus from his helplessness and Jesus must respond. We are not only helpless to restore the family, we suffer a serious lack of faith. Our prayers start with, “God, if you can….”

Dear Lord, save us from our lack of faith and please restore us to sanity.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.