Family First

“Family first”

Luke 12: 49-56

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

August 18, 2013

First of all, I would like to thank you all for supporting The Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish, Fr. Jay Watan and Fr. Jurek Fernandez during my absence.

Secondly, I would like to thank you all for allowing me to have a quality time with my family. There are things that money can’t buy, one of them is family, the other, happiness.

It is proven that family is the basic unit of a society. It is the building block of a community. family is the community in which children learn morality, faith, and ordered freedom, all of which are necessary for a free and flourishing culture. The family is, in other words, the primary educator of the community: the parents or guardians are and have the responsibility to be the primary teachers of their children. The Church is tasked with handing the faith of the Apostles but it is the parents who do this first, with the Church acting as aide in this regard.

The responsibilities of parents towards their children, and society as a whole, is to teach their children proper morals and inculcate what virtues they may, to teach their children how best to live in harmony with others, and how to live in full control of themselves.

Jesus in the Gospel gave us a disturbing challenge about what might happen to families and communities. It sounded like a curse and is very troubling. But what he said has always been the disease of a family from time immemorial, even the beginning of life when Adam and Eve accused each other on whose fault it was that they created the first sin. Cain slaughtered his brother Abel and down the history even at Jesus time, where he was disregarded by the jews as an outcast, not a member of their family and caused pain in him, even crucified him.

But Jesus is resolved to continue to build God’s family based on Compassion, Love and Mercy. He warned his disciples and those who followed him about the imminent danger that might happen to their family when they come to follow him and spread the kingdom of God. There is a sense of urgency in the words of Jesus Christ.
For, with this Jesus, life is never business as usual. There is nothing usual about healing the blind, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick. There is nothing usual about forgiveness, in which anxious sinners like us get precisely what we do not deserve, the mercy, love and communion of God. There is nothing usual about a God who will be baptized into our deaths and immersed in our pain and desperation so that we may know a present and eternal peace from which we will not be taken. There is nothing usual about a God who is willing to suffer death so that we may know the resurrection of our bodies. Yes, this is disturbing, even terrifying news, because there is nothing more terrifying than the freedom to let go of our preconceived notions about how the world works and our need to control that world. It is terrifying enough to cause division amongst the most stable social unit in Jesus’ time, the family. So radical is this message of love and mercy that the world’s only place to put it was on a cross outside the city gates. So unusual is this news, this mercy, peace and pardon, that we ourselves would be unable to bear it, if not for God’s Holy Spirit who gives us the gift of faith, and like a cleansing fire, casts out our guilt and fear and brings us to the foot of the cross where we are apprehended a new by the love of Christ.

This, however, is our calling, not to ignore our fears and the realities that create them but rather face the world as it stands. It is a calling to know that God is present and active in the midst of the world, transforming us and it, and bringing us ever closer to God and the whole human family; and it is God’s promise to be with us in our pain and fear that allows us to let go of our need to control, if only a little bit. It is our calling to know that our truest identities, that is, who we really are, does not depend on the cruel indifference we so frequently encounter. Instead, who we are is rooted in the God who meets us at the cross, where our sense of control is finally and ultimately put to death, so that we may be raised anew in the mercy and communion of God. And as Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, God’s time is always now. And because God’s time is always in the present, we are given the freedom to take this good, if strange news, with us into the world. We are now free to speak and enact a word of hope and comfort to a world where despair and pain seem to be the only certainties. We are free to offer forgiveness to our enemies and comfort to our loved ones. We are free to invite our neighbors, both near and far, into this strange, unusual, but unspeakably wonderful thing we call Christian discipleship. Because God’s time is always in the present, we need not look to the past to find God’s faithfulness, though there are surely enough instances of past faithfulness to build a convincing case. Instead, God is calling us to a future, and what that future may be, no one can say with certainty, but I think we can expect to be surprised. For that is just how things seem to go in God’s time.

What we mostly need now is love of family. In the words of the Psalm, “How good and pleasant it is for God’s people to dwell together in Unity, for there God commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.”

I have seen that love and unity in the family of Jim and Mariterie Adams, who had to travel from far different places to bring their loving support to Jim and Mariterie.

I have seen that love and unity in the family of Andronico Gumtang and the Lagunte families, who, amidst their greatest grief, they are united and supportive to each other.

I have seen that love and unity among the Dayrit and Pailano families and many others.
To some of us, we struggle but we always have the hope for God is with us always whatever it takes.

You see, Life, however short it may be, is like a jar with rocks, pebbles and sand on it. The rocks are the important things – your family, your spouse, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your security, your car.
The sand is everything else, the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Things that money can’t but buy, such as quality time with your family.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children and grand children. Take your spouse, parents, family or friend out for a date. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party, or do gardening.”

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

Let us all keep the basic unit of our lives, our family, for to each other, we grow in strength and love on our journey to meet God face to face. Amen.


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