We’re on a Mission from God

Family Matters
Curtis and Michaelann Martin
From the Dec 2000 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

At the beginning of our study, we examined the analogy of a fleet of ships. For the fleet to safely reach its destination, three conditions must be met:

(1) Each ship needs to be seaworthy;

(2) The ships must avoid running into one another; and

(3) The fleet must know where it is going.

We’ve looked at what it means for our family to be seaworthy vessels. We’ve tried to propose some effective tactics so that we will avoid collisions and unnecessary conflicts. We’ve encouraged working side by side as we chart a course for our heavenly home.

What is true for success within our family is also true for the success of our family within the modern world. We have seen how there is more to success in family life than simply wanting to be happy; there is a blueprint for success. Now let’s examine the vital role of a seaworthy family in our modern world. Our goal is not merely to save ourselves. Rather, as the fundamental building block of society, the family must harness the grace of Christ to redeem our society. It is so important that each of us realize that we are all on a mission from God, and quite literally on a mission to God.

Seaworthy Vessels

We have had the great opportunity to receive counsel and input from couples across the country. Some couples were newly engaged, while others had been married for more than 30 years. They all shared a common vision of the vocation of marriage. Married couples are called to get each other, their families, and as many others as possible to heaven. That is what it all comes down to. Are we willing to meet the challenge? Yes, it is a daunting task, but it is also a great adventure!

How do we take what we’ve learned in this study and apply it to our marriage, and to our relationship with our children, our friends, the families of our communities, and the world? In this series we have examined some of the pearls of wisdom within the Catholic Church. We have explored ways to draw close to Jesus and to live our faith more effectively.

A key starting point is to truly embrace our faith with a spirit of joy. Knowing that we are God’s children- those with whom God wants to spend eternity-should transform every aspect of our lives. We have found that the most attractive Catholics are those who are joyful. They do simple things, like smile, even in the midst of sufferings, and they have a way of being hopeful in the most difficult situations. This doesn’t just happen. It takes effort.
Like the old adage:

Sow a thought, reap an action.

Sow an action, and reap a habit.

Sow a habit, and reap a character.

Sow a character, and reap a destiny.

People who make the effort to have good and holy thoughts will manifest it by their conduct. Their actions will become habits, so that no matter where they are or what they are doing, they will radiate their faith. Often we see great character in these people and we want to be more like them. It all makes perfect sense, too. God has made us to know the truth, to seek the good, and to love the beautiful. Because He has made each of us this way, we cannot help but be drawn to a family whose life is lived with harmony, honor, and hospitality. It is hard work to become a family like this. But we can take courage
knowing that if we draw close to Christ, He will transform our family with His grace. Other families will see the good in a Christ-centered family and they, too, will want it for themselves, thus starting a marvelous chain reaction. It is all a part of this great mission that we’re on.

Grace to Be Heard

By struggling to live our faith well, we earn the right to be heard. Mother Teresa was probably one of the most respected women to have lived in our century. She truly earned the right to be heard-by asking more of herself than she ever asked of anyone else. Mother Teresa wasn’t known for spouting off her opinions to the world. She was a woman of action and very few words. But when asked, she knew what to say and how to say it. This confidence only comes from prayer and a deep relationship with God Himself. Because of her selfless service to the poor and vulnerable, she was afforded the opportunity to speak
to kings and presidents. Even those who opposed her message were unable to muster a protest, because she had earned the right to be heard.

The same is true for couples and families that are living their faith well. People will watch you and question you because they want to know what you are doing-not only because it is attractive, but also because it is honorable and good. It is so tough to live this way in a society that contradicts true beauty, goodness, and all that is holy. But it’s not impossible. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). We have found that the
easiest people to learn from are those who live their faith but do not boast about it. They realize that they owe it all to God and His grace. Humility is an integral part of earning the right to be heard.

We have all been around those people who feel the need to spout their opinions about everything all the time. It is the simple rule of supply and demand-they supply more opinions than the demand calls for! These are the ones you try to avoid sitting next to at potluck dinners because they talk your ear off. Usually, those are not the people that others are going to want to imitate. The right to be heard does not give us the right to impose our
opinions at all times. We need to balance quiet confidence in what we are doing in our marriage and family and the ability to respond effectively when our beliefs are challenged. We are all called to evangelize, to be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15). Pope John Paul II has repeatedly reminded the faithful of this mission during his pontificate, and he has stressed that we need to have the heart of Christ to do it.

Holy Navigators
We began by using the analogy of the ships. Both spouses were ships sailing toward the same goal. Then we proposed that the family was a small fleet of ships.

Now we want to extend this analogy into our family’s role in society. Our family is a ship. We hope to be seaworthy and not collide with others, but the glitch enters in when we realize that many ships out there don’t know the final destination. It is up to us to share with them the information that God has entrusted to us. Where are they to go? How can they get there most effectively? A key part of our mission as a family is to provide answers to these questions. The first step is to begin today within your own heart and the heart of your home, and then be ready to lend a hand to those around you in need.
This might be achieved by hosting a Bible study in your home, or by becoming more involved in your parish community. Finding friends that share the same
insights and goals is very helpful. Many hands make the work light.

Talk Tips

  • In your personal talk-time, share with each other what you enjoyed the most about doing this study together.
  • Share something that you learned about your spouse that you did not know before doing this study together.
  • Find some time to talk with your spouse about your family’s mission. It might be helpful to write out your individual mission statements, and then
    compose a family mission statement together. This also is a great activity for families with older children. Everyone loves to be asked for his or her
    opinion and input.
  • Ask each other: Is our family a good witness to our Catholic faith?

Additional Reading

    • The Catholic Family Handbook, by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik
    • Handbook for Parents, by Father Paul Wickens

Action Points

  • After discussing a family mission statement, take time to write it on a poster board. Have each family member sign and date it, and hang it in a prominent place. Some families we know even frame their mission statement and have it hanging in the entrance of their home.
  • Make an effort to evangelize others by witnessing to them and inviting them into your home. We have found that when we invite others over for dinner or
    game nights it is much easier to talk about our faith, because they naturally are attracted to the fun and find asking questions easy.

Personal Application

    1. What does 1 Peter 3:1-9 teach us as married couples? ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    2. Read the invitation of Pope John Paul II to become a coworker with Christ: “But it is especially necessary to recognize the unique place that, in this
      field, belongs to the mission of married couples and Christian families, by virtue of the grace received in the sacrament. This mission must be placed
      at the service of the building up of the Church, the establishing of the Kingdom of God in history. . . . This apostolate will be exercised in the
      first place within families. . . . The apostolate of the family will also become wider through works of spiritual and material charity towards other
      families.”Specifically, what decisions can you make to help other families come to discover the blueprint for lasting joy in the family?
      ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    3. According to Genesis 18:19, why was Abraham chosen to receive God’s blessing? ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    4. How can your family help to fulfill the “great commission” found in Matthew 28:18-20? ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    5. In Acts 1:8, the apostles are given a “game plan” for implementing the great commission. They are told to begin in Judea and then Samaria and then “to the end of the earth.” How can your family design a specific plan to share the good news of Christ-beginning at home (Judea), and then with your neighbors (Samaria), and finally even to the end of the earth? ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    6. According to 1 Thessalonians 2:8, what two things did St. Paul share with the people in his life?________________________________________ __________________________________________ ________________________________________ __________________________________________
    7. Looking to Ss. Paul and Timothy as a model, how important is it not only to share the teachings of Christ, but to encourage others to do the same?________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
    8. Read Titus 2:1-8. Why is it so important for us to live family life in an authentically Christian manner? For ourselves: ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________

For our friends: ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________

For non-Christians: ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________

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