Christian Family (2018)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 14th January 2018, Prague, Czech republic
The cross has been the way to God ever since the Fall of Man. It is imposed on everybody, may he be married or not, may he live alone or in a family.
Our Saviour therefore says: “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.“ (Matthew 10:38)
The cross means salvation, the cross means peace for the soul!
I shall tell you a true story in order to underline these reflections:
When his wife died, Gertrud´s brother remained alone with nine children, the youngest one still in the cradle. Gertrud was vividly thinking about that when she had returned home from the funeral. The two eldest girls, dressed in black, their eyes red from crying, held on to her arms and did not stop crying. The eldest boy who had put his cap on the table, looked straight in Gertrud´s eyes without saying a word. Martin, her brother, sitting on a chair, his elbows on the table, first looked at his children, then at Gertrud; and then he sadly shook his head and looked at the floor.
At night, before she went to bed, Gertrud had been kneeling on the floor in front of the cross for a long time and had been praying devoutly for strength and advice.
Next morning when the children had left for school, she sat at the breakfast table with Martin. He sat there pensively with closed eyes. “Brother“, she said to him, “I have already told you yesterday that God would give advice... You cannot even think about getting married again. Nobody shall be willing to come to a home of nine children. Once your children are grown up, your problems shall be solved...“. “Yes“, he mumbled, “but until then?“
Gertrud got up and stepped to him: “Listen, I shall stay with you until the children are grown up. I shall be a devoted mother to your children.“ “You, Gertrud? But you want to get married in October; the date has already been fixed.“
“I shall stay with you“, she repeated firmly. “I have made my mind up and God will take care of the rest.“
She was walking through the fields and meadows; there was a smell of hay in the air. Karl, her fiancé, was waiting for her, his straw hat in his hands and looking at her with trusting eyes. She picked a blade of grass, twisted it around her finger and said frankly: “Karl, my brother is in a very difficult situation. He is now alone with nine small children.“
“Yes, this is a cruel fate, Gertrud!“ “Are we allowed to abandon him, Karl?“ “No, you can't do that!“ “And if I asked God for advice, what would be his answer?“ she said. “You must take care of the children and be a good mother to them!“ answered Karl without hesitating. He then turned deadly pale, unable to continue. Gertrud´s tongue was also tied, she could not say a word. They were thus standing for a while, facing each other silently.
Gertrud finally said: “But we neither can get married in the autumn, Karl, nor in the coming years! I shall release you... you may forget me and look for somebody else“, she added softly and started sobbing.
He punched his pitchfork deeply into the ground, pushed back his hat and looked at her. “Never“, he said, “if it can't be you, Gertrud! Listen to me: What you plan to do is good and I fully agree with you. But it will be difficult for you at times. So do it for God and for the children! I shall also do something: I shall help you in His name, in God´s name!“
The years passed by, the children grew up and left the house. Gertrud and Karl were free now to get married. So they went to see the priest. They had been loyal to each other, but founding a family was out of the question now.
The priest pointed out to the cross and said: “He made note of everything that you have done for Him and in His name for the orphans!“
If someone asked what a Christian family means, the answer would be: The Christian family is a place where one learns to accept the cross which God sends.
Martin´s cross was the fact that God had taken his wife away from him too early, much too early. Gertrud and Karl had seen his cross and were ready to help him carrying it. And God´s will was their guideline in everything they did.
Is the Holy Family not an example of this? Saint Mary made Her sacrifices and Saint Joseph helped Her, first at Nazareth and then at Bethlehem, where they were expelled and had to spend the night in a cave. When the child´s life was in danger, they had to flee to Egypt.
We must not believe that Mary and Joseph could understand all of this! No, it was a complete mystery to them! In the Holy Scripture there are two passages which say expressively: “But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.“ (Luke 2:19 and 2:51)
Let us honour the image of the Holy Family. Let us pray for holy Christian families! Let us imitate this family in their willingness to make sacrifices! Amen.