Once again we are reminded of the coming of the Lord to his formerly exiled people who returned to Israel. Those who remembered the first temple were saddened to rebuild the temple because it had lost the manna, the tablets of the law and all the other original trappings. The people believed that the Temple had lost the presence of God in the temple. The people were told they would see something much greater, the presence of God everywhere.
Today, we must be aware that the World Meeting of Families is more than just a festival that comes every three years. Instead, we are waiting for our prophet, the Pope, to come to see us and tell us to take courage, take courage, take courage. He will let us know that our work is calling us. We must get to work. We are well aware of the difficulties families face across the world.
Keynote with Rick Warren and Cardinal Sean O'Malley
Rick Warren spoke first:
Our society is completely backwards on how it depicts everything. The Bible teaches that we overcome evil with good. What creates a joy-filled family? They model themselves on the joy of God. The bible says God is love, not that he has love, but that he is love. The only reason you have love in your family is because God is love. Your heart beats because you were made to be loved by God. If you were not created to love God, you would not be here. God didn't need you...he wanted you. You can't make God stop loving you, because his love is based on who He is not who you are. No person will ever love you the way God loves you.
You will only know your purpose in life by reading God's word and talking to the Creator.
You must do on earth what you do in Heaven. It's practice. You will worship in heaven, you must worship and bow down before your God here on earth to practice for eternity. Trials and tribulations make you grow and stretch to become closer to God. Satan does not tempt us with evil, he tempts us with lies about what is good. Satan did not say to Adam and Eve in the Garden "Eat this and you will become like me." No, he said "Eat this and you will become like God." We will learn peace in this chaos. The family is our launchpad for ministry to others. We serve God by serving others.
Everybody is called to serve, even though not everybody is a priest. We must practice our eternal service to God by serving others here on earth. Everybody is hungry for the Good News, no matter what walls they seem to put up. Who is going to bring the Good News to them? To serve them? It must be us.
We are never going to deserve the blessings that God gives us, but our ticket to heaven was paid for not by us but by the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We must reach out as families full of joy to bring people into the family of God.
This was my second time hearing Cardinal Sean speak, as he had given an English language catechesis at World Youth Day in 2013 in Brazil.
We need to see the world through God's eyes if we are going to actually see things clearly. If we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we not share that love with others? Families are missionaries, they pass the legacy on to new members. Marriage means new life, and the Gospel must radiate from the family. Not only do parents give the message of the Gospel to their children, but the witness and love of children evangelizes the parents. It is these families that evangelize other families.
Being a family in God's family means that we make a gift of ourselves to others' service. Technological superiority deludes westerners into thinking they are better than people in the developing world. The newly baptised native peoples of New Guinea that Cardinal Sean's friary evangelized were immediately scandalized by the fact that they had met Lutheran Papuans on the other side of the island they lived on. It was immediately a scandal that the body of Christ was divided. It was these new Christians that remind us that our technical advances have not stopped us from being completely backward in other ways. If someone asked for the toughest mission in the world today, they would be sent to the U.S. or another western country because this is he new mission territory where people are rejecting God and deChristianizing our countries. The lives of the saints should be the people that we model our lives upon, not superficial celebrities.
There is a difference between a crowd and a community. It was community that lowered the paralytic man through the roof of our Lord's house. We must change the crowd into a community, first by evangelizing our families, and then everyone else. Our domestic church of forgiveness and unconditional love will evangelize the world. We must gather around our tables to share and love, and then gather around the Eucharistic table. We must build a civilization of love.
Final breakout session with Alejandro Bermudas, Joseph and Gina Loehr, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka. "How Precious is the Family"
Mr. Bermudas spoke hosts Cara y Cara on EWTN, a Spanish language program. He is a consecrated lay person. He spoke of the "Barrio" in Buenos Aires. The Barrio in South America is the reference point for the family, while the concept of a Barrio in American minds is that of a drug and gang related area. Pope Francis is nostalgic for the kind of family life that he grew up with in the Barrio in Buenos Aires. How can we make our communities, our barrios, open and supporting of family life rather than a place of hostility? Pope Francis' childhood in the barrio is one of the reasons that he believes in a culture of experience. We must go out and meet people and build communities from the crowds. Despite our imperfections, the family is still the answer for the future.
Gina used to believe that marriage and family life was useless. She is thankful to God that she had a conversion before she gave her entire life over to this lie. The family is precious because faith and the foundation of coexistence exist within it. We teach an antidote to social fragmentation by teaching coexistence in our families.
Joseph exhorted upon all of us to listen to the Words of Pope Francis in always making time for our children. Usually, children do not feel ignored by their mother, but Pope Francis used to ask fathers if they played with their children and if they had the courage to be present in their children's lives - to make time rather than just being out to make money. Children always remember who was present and who was not. Fathers, no matter how much they feel the need to provide, must provide themselves their sons and daughters.
Rabbi Skorka is a friend of Pope Francis who knew Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires. Why are we so enamoured with Pope Francis? It is because he reminds us of our Lord Jesus, who took the time to visit people, to come to them and to bless them.
Archbishop Chaput seemed on the verge of tears as he closed out our conference, and so was I. Tomorrow, with the arrival of the Vicar of Christ, Philadelphia's World Meeting of Families participants will be joined by hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of other people who will come to hear our Holy Father speak and offer Mass. I am melancholy as I write this, because I am happy about taking part of the Festival of Families (cough, Jim Gaffigan, cough cough) and being at Mass with so many other people on fire with their faith.
I was also very pleased to visit the Cathedral of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. It is modelled on the Hagia Sophia and is breathtaking. As an emissary of Kyivan Rus said to Prince Volodomyr after visiting the original Hagia Sophia, "We did not know if we were on Heaven or Earth". I had the same feeling.