I used to teach an RCIA class for children at my former parish. One day a child, maybe 11 or 12 years old, asked about the quote in the bible that says, "Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth." - Genesis 1:26. He asked, "why does God say, 'Let US' and 'OUR image', why is God using a plural if this is the beginning?" A very astute question, and I myself had never given it much thought, but I answered what I thought deep down to be true. I told him though I wasn't sure, and I would look it up, that I thought it was a foreshadowing of the Trinity. That Jesus was there in the beginning, though He had not yet come to earth but He was there since the beginning.
I came home after class and looked it up, my gut had been correct. This was a foreshadowing of the Trinity. This got me thinking. I am no deep theologian and sometimes when I read and try to educate myself, honestly I think my head might explode. Some of the deep theology and the intellect of the Fathers of the Church, makes me feel inadequate. But then, as if somehow God knows my feelings, He gives me a simplistic thought. That passage where God is speaking in the plural, foreshadowing the Trinity, He is talking about how He made us in their image and likeness. I remembered how St. Patrick had used the image of the clover to show the three leaves on one clover. But I thought of another, even more powerful image, a place where three become one right here on earth - the family. A man and a woman in marriage together with God create a new life. The child proceeds from the Father and Mother. Three persons become one family. This was an amazing revelation to me. It turns out this was Catholic Teaching all along. Though nothing can truly explain the mystery of the Trinity, the family is one place the Church looks. What a gift the Church's teachings are, if only we would take the time to find out.
Goodness me I thought, the family unit, now that is really where the Image and Likeness of God is imprinted. When a husband and wife invite God into their marriage, it is a Sacramental marriage of three, God, husband and wife. From the love of a Husband and Wife springs children. When we invite God into our family, His image is imprinted there just as it is imprinted on each one of us. To further the realization of the importance of family, I began to look through the bible and realized how it lists the Genealogy of people throughout. Jesus Himself has His genealogy listed in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. As if to tell us, it is important where you came from! These people in these families, they made up a nation - The nation of Israel. A nation can be great when its families are great. When the family deteriorates so too does the community. When the community deteriorates, the nation can too. As Pope John Paul II stated in his homily on November 30, 1980, “The family is the ‘first and vital cell of society’. In its own way it is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church. The future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family.”
The family can be something sacred, something wonderful, but we human beings have a way of making a mess of things, my own family included. If only we realized the beauty of what God has in store for us when we invite Him in. I would say that the Cure d’ars, St. John Vianney, realized the importance of the family. During his first few weeks in Ars he spent time visiting with each of the sixty families in his parish. He was making an assessment of his parish by starting at the family level. By focusing on the family, praying, and fasting, St. John Vianney was able over time to rid Ars of all taverns which he said, “steal the bread of poor women and children by selling wine to drunkards.” That may sound harsh, but within 20 years the taverns in Ars closed and do you know what else went away? Destitution and poverty went away in Ars. St. John Vianney suffered tremendously, but he through the Grace of God, transformed his community by helping the people there love and sacrifice for one another instead of giving into selfish desires. He encouraged confession and spent hours every day helping his community, helping families rid themselves of vices so their lives would be better. People came from all around to see this holy man. A man who started by visiting each family.
Now, I already realized the importance of my own family, how much I loved them, but I don't think I ever realized the impact the family has on all of society. We need to build up the family. Support the family. When we do this the Image of God shines through for all to see. We must try to burn our selfishness away and sacrifice and serve one another, starting with the people in our own homes. Look around at the people in your home in thanksgiving, not bitterness.
When I was growing up my dad used to say to me, "The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother." I believe that. I was blessed to have that. I know not everyone was. All I can say is love your family. Sacrifice for your family. The love that you give there can spread to the rest of society. Children should be seen as gifts and not burdens. Families should be a place where love is seen openly. If you have a broken family, forgive, heal, and love your family where they are now. See the image of God in your family.