ARE ”FAMILY VALUES” TRADITIONAL?
(Friday, June 23)
Today’s Gospel-reading has one of the most disconcerting passages of the entire Bible:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Mt 10:34-36)
What kind of “a sword” did our Lord come to bring us, – He who Himself never took up arms and died at the hands of violent men? He brings us what St. Paul (who died by the sword) calls “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:17) It is by and in the Holy Spirit that we embrace the word of God and His truth, which every now and then “cuts” through our most popular ideologies. Today these ideologies include “traditional family values,” in the name of which many people, even those “in our own household” and in our own church, are willing to justify and wage war.
But the word of God sits uncomfortably with the notion of “family values,” not actually “traditional” for Christianity. Family was everything, both for pre-Christian Jewish people and for pagans. One’s biological birth and bloodline determined everything he or she would be, do, believe, whom he or she would marry, and so on. There was no “birth from above” or vocation, that is, a call from God, to liberate the individual from that which was pre-determined by biological birth. That is why the One Who chose to be born not into a traditional family, but of a Virgin who “knew no husband,” proclaims this radical change to all that, saying: “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
What does this mean for us, in practical terms? Are we to see our most-loved ones as “the bad guys” in our lives? No. It means we are to beware of the really “bad guys” who are interested in pushing our buttons through them, and through our own tendency to idealize or even idolize “family” and “family values.” In all our relationships, we don’t let ourselves be just one-on-one with another human being, but we let in a Third Person, the Holy Spirit, Who provides some fresh air into the picture. O Heavenly King, come and abide in us today, and help us respect our own freedom and that of others, that true love and friendship may thrive among us, by Your grace.