November 24, 2017

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Make your home a kingdom of ‘justice, love and peace’

Sean GallagherIt is understandable that we Americans might not fully appreciate the significance of the feast that the Church celebrates this weekend—the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

After all, democracy is at the heart of our identity as Americans. Our nation came to be because our founding fathers rebelled against a tyrannical king.

In the Declaration of Independence, they proclaimed that “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” had endowed all humanity with “certain unalienable rights,” and that all governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

So viewing Christ as a king whose authority comes from his divine nature and not by our vote can be abstract for us, not a part of our ordinary daily life.

There are other ways, though, of understanding Christ’s kingship that might resonate with us better.

We might not describe it in so many words, but the life of our families is closer to a monarchy than a democracy.

While parents should allow their children as much freedom of choice and say in how family life is organized as is prudent for their stage of development and the good of the family, the degree of their freedom in the home is still determined by those parents. It isn’t derived from the consent of the governed.

And the role of parents as quasi-monarchs in their homes didn’t come to be simply because of social customs that may have come about in a period when justice was disrespected and can be discarded in later, more enlightened times.

No, we believe that “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” endow parents with authority over their children for the good of those children, so that they will have the best chance to grow, thrive and become the people that God has created them to be.

In addition to being inscribed in the laws of nature, we Catholics also see this belief about family life confirmed in sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Still, it is understandable that parents in this culture might at times feel uncomfortable with this kind of authority, or be tempted to make their homes more of a democracy than is ultimately wise.

It’s just kind of ingrained into our cultural mindset that kings are bad and ballot boxes are good.

But all of this presumes that Christ’s kingship and those of parents, which are derived from his, are like the kings of the past and the tyrants of the present who, in the words of Jesus, “lord it over” their people and “make their authority over them felt” (Mt 20:25).

Jesus’ instruction to his disciples about how they were to shepherd his followers can apply to civic leaders as well: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Mt 20:26-27).

Parents are called by God to exercise authority in their homes in order to serve their children and promote their good.

And I certainly know from trial and error—with an emphasis on the error—that this authority will have a better chance of being received by children when parents don’t “lord it over them,” and instead serve them in love as Jesus said and witnessed in his own life among us.

When, with the help of God’s grace, parents lead their children like this, their homes will become kingdoms like the kingdom of God described in the preface to the eucharistic prayer on the feast of Christ the King: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” †

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