Sunday, September 19, 2021

Raising a family

Sermon for the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

For many people, the family is a terrible place to be. For some, Dad's an alcoholic who beats Mum when she hides the money. But then Grandad abused Dad when he was a boy. But then Grandad never knew who his father was, but only a succession of men who showed up in his house and treated his mother like dirt.

There is a reason for a family's dysfunction and often it goes back - way back!


Of course, we cannot be held responsible for the sins of our fathers, but we are responsible for how we allow the sins of our fathers to affect our life. Dad may be an alcoholic but we need not be. Grandad may be an abuser, but that will not excuse any abuse at our hands. The sins of our fathers provide an explanation for  their actions not an excuse nor a justification for them.

But the sins of our fathers leave us weakened. We need to heal.


At first glance, the Church does not seem to be the place to heal. We know well that there has been a woeful catalogue of abuse carried out. Some who have been entrusted with the care of souls have sought the care of their own perverted pleasure rather than bringing the love of God to those desperate to know that they have some value.

But the Church is a family. We are all related to each other by more than our own blood. We are related by the blood of Christ. Jesus is our surname.


God chooses to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He chooses His words with care. It is clear that He wants us to think of Mankind's relationship with Him as being a family. This is why He uses the names of Father and Son. In receiving the sacrament, we take into ourselves the true Blood of Christ. We become blood relations more and more as we continue in the Church.

Jesus gives life to the family. See how He raises the son of the Widow of Nain. She who loses a family has it restored to her. He is the means by which the whole Christian family is reconciled to God. This family, dysfunctional, filled with scandals and sin, is restored by Christ Himself Who is ever present in His Church. We sin but we have a way to return.

But we have to play our part in helping this family to heal and grow. If we love Christ, we must keep His commandments. We must love God. We must love neighbour.

And we must forgive other who trespass against us.


Just as the sins of the fathers infect later generations so the virtues of fathers can help the healing progress. To forgive truly is an act of rebellion against the Devil and a renunciation of his membership of our family. To forgive the unforgivable is an act of heroism and sacrifice, and sacrifice means to make holy. 

A life that is committed to God, seeking forgiveness and freely forgiving, seeking His love and freely loving, seeking holiness and freely offering sacrifice - this life is the life of the Church and one that we need to embrace in order to find healing.


God is a father, but He is not an abusive father, though He will be accused of that by some who do not read the Scriptures carefully and fully. God is Our Father and our surname is Jesus. Whether we like it or not, we are the family of the Church and we will find healing in that family despite the sins of the fathers. Jesus can raise this family from the dead. Indeed, He already has!

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