Lift up
family.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”

At the Third Holy Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church, held in Chicago in December 1914 the Synod delegates resolved that the Second Sunday of October be dedicated as the Solemnity of the Christian Family. This Solemnity was meant as an opportunity for the Church to pray for the consolidation and strengthening of families. On this day we pray for all families; that they be strengthened and blessed.

It is great to have an idea, but as is said, we have to get the rubber to hit the road. So, how do we get there; how do we get families strengthened, blessed, and consolidated.

If you looked at our parish sign on the way in, you’d have noticed it now says “Rise Up With Jesus & Lift Others Here.”

This is how we get the rubber to hit the road.

We start by not ignoring our motivation. God’s entire creative effort was spurred by a desire to expand and build relationship. Since God had and has this desire for relationship within Himself, and since He made us in His relational image (Let us…), so we too desire relationship. We are motivated by relationship.

Relationship, of course, cannot be realized in motivation alone. That’s just frustrating and unproductive. So we take steps. We build friendships; we enter into relationships at many levels. Some are very close, some are more casual, but none are unimportant.

So we are motivated and so we try. But, being human as we are, we occasionally loose sight of what we must do to take relationship to the next level.

To get to the next level we must stay on message, we must build deeper and more meaningful relationships.

Of course the best proving ground for living our motivation, staying true to God’s relational life, is in our families. That is where we most intently and proactively rise with Jesus and lift each other up. In the microcosm of family relationship we motivate, comfort, provide love that is beyond reason, discipline, and sacrifice.

Now, from that microcosm, we are to expand the best of what we learn and do, rising with Jesus, raising up others, right here: consolidating, strengthening, blessing.

The best family
ever!

Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

How do we get the best family ever? We all have conceptions of what a great family would be. It would be loving, comforting, full of life and joy, faithful, of one mind and heart, and it would not end with only one generation, but would live on forever.

So often, we spend Trinity Sunday trying to work through the theology of God, One God in Three Divine Persons. We can make the day about thinking, or we may even make it about our feelings toward God, but rarely do we make it about relationship.

From the very beginning of scripture, God reveals Himself as relationship. Jesus’ coming to us was about building relationship and community. Jesus’ post-resurrection and post-Ascension reality is about a people as one body.

Paul, in writing to the Romans, spells it all out for us. He did this often, talking about the unity that we have as followers of Christ. He talks about that ideal family that has moved from conception to reality.

We have a family built on love. In a great reality it was created through the self-sacrifice of love. No greater love hath a man…

We have a family that offers the ultimate in comfort. It is a comfort that surpasses merely being comfortable – it gives us absolute assurance and guaranteed heavenly promises – God does not lie in His promises.

We have the fullness of life and the joy of freedom. Our joy and freedom comes from having all our debts paid and settled once and for all. Everything that bound us and weighed us down has been removed.

Faithfulness is derived from our dedication to God, to lives modeled on Jesus’ life, and the way we care for each other.

Our life does not end here and now, with a family fading away at the moment of death, but lasts forever in the Heavenly Court where we have our inheritance in Christ.

We have all this from the Spirit of Pentecost, in the family of Christ, the Unity of the Trinity; the best family ever.

Relationship
changed!

I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.

Today we encounter Paul’s shortest letter. It is a letter to his friend and co-worker Philemon and his family. This letter is only one chapter containing twenty-five short verses.

Generally any letter from Paul deals with a crisis at hand. In this case the crisis is neither doctrinal nor a confused morality. Philemon and the fellow Christians that meet at his house seem to have their faith on straight. This letter is about one man and his relationship to another. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had run away, perhaps guilty of theft in the process. Onesimus ran off and found Paul in Rome. They had likely met during Paul’s stay with Philemon. Paul brought Onesimus to knowledge of and faith in Jesus. Onesimus spent time helping and serving Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. Now Paul was sending Onesimus back as a changed man.

Paul knew that in sending Onesimus back, Philmon would have to confront the reality of his faith. Paul’s lesson here, his teaching of the Gospel, is focused on getting relationships straight. For Paul, the essential fruit of the Gospel is transformed relationships. Who was Onesimus now – and how was Philemon supposed to relate to him?

Philemon and Onesimus were both to learn that being a Christian means being transformed and being part of a new relationship between oneself, God, the rest of humanity, and the world.

Faith in Jesus is to bring change to our lives. It is not just an interior thing, but also an exterior one. They way we relate and interact with others is to demonstrate our faith – faith truly lived. This changed relationship often stands at odds with the surrounding secular order. Philemon could easily and rightly have Onesimus killed in dozens of horrible ways for even the slightest of offenses, much less running away. Thus the social conflict that emerges from being Christian in an anti-God world. Paul focuses on this interpersonal conflict and the way we must revise and reform our relationships. How will our relationships be changed despite the world’s rules? How will Philemon react? Will Christ or the world rule our relationships?

Paul reminds Philemon of his encounter with the Jesus. So we must be reminded. The strength of our life in Jesus is tested in relationship. In daily crises let Jesus change our lives and our way of relationship.