Bishop reflects on “Amoris Laetitia”

By Bishop Stephen J. Berg
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I send you Greetings in Our Lord! I wish to thank all of you who worked so hard this year to prepare our candidates for their reception of sacraments throughout this spring. Congratulations to all of our newly baptized, those who have received their first communions, and to our newly confirmed. We praise God for all of you! At this time I wish to share with you some brief thoughts on Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love,” which is the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis given in response to the recently concluded worldwide Synod on the Family.

Pope Francis speaks to the reality of living out the mission of Christ in the human family today. He wants the truth and beauty of the family to be clearly proclaimed, and is most concerned about the confusion that has arisen in our world around the modern definitions and identity of the family. Against this confusion he insists, “The word of God tells us that the family is entrusted to a man, a woman and their children, so that they may become a communion of persons in the image of the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (29). He refers to an earlier teaching by St. John Paul II, that God in his deepest mystery is a family, containing “fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family is the Holy Spirit” (11).

How important to remember that the human family is a gift given by God, in the image of God, given for the purpose of living in God’s world. The Trinity as a divine family of persons, reflective of the human family of persons, is not just a “nice” ideal. This love given by God for each of us, the Holy Spirit, is the love for which we are made, and the only place where we will find true peace. To accept this love, to be baptized into it and to proclaim it in our lives draws us deeply into the Holy Trinity. We become temples of the Holy Spirit.

Yet there are those who struggle to find this truth in their families and in their lives. External pressures on families are increasing, the choice for marriage is seen as less important, the sexual identity of marriage partners has become confused and societal support for married life has decreased. Some people have become bound in unions which prevent full communion with the Church, others have opted out altogether.

In the midst of this turmoil, Pope Francis reminds us to recognize that our faith in Christ is to be at its strongest, that the Church must be open to those who struggle, “who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence. . . . Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital” (291). While the Church must remain firm in her teachings on marriage, she must not turn away from or disregard those people “in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond” to those teachings (292).

Brothers and sisters, the human family is a gift of love. We are called to proclaim this gift, to support it, and to encourage others to discover its beauty. This is the love which is the Holy Spirit, the love which we have received in Our Lord, and the love we are called to extend to all of God’s children.
To read Amoris Laetitia, visit www.vatican.va and click on “Apostolic Exhortations.”