Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico – Although families today deeply struggle in a society rife with dysfunction and pain, this fundamental relationship is still essential for our lives and preferable to being alone, Pope Francis said.
“Today we see how on different fronts the family is weakened and questioned,” the pope said Monday while meeting with families in Mexico’s southern city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. “It is regarded as a model which has done its time, but which has no place in our societies; these, claiming to be modern, increasingly favor a model based on isolation.”
“It is true that living in family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful but, as I have often said referring to the Church, I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a society that is sick from isolationism and habitually afraid of love.”
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The pontiff continued: “I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to faces with makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion.”
Pope Francis met with families at the “Victor Manuel Reyna” Stadium in the capital of Mexico’s Chiapas state during his third full day of his Feb 12-17 trip to the country.
The pope listened to testimonies ranging from a young man with muscular dystrophy, to a divorced and remarried couple, a family struggling to obtain basic goods for their families, and a single mother who refused to undergo abortions despite pressure to do so.
Halfway through the witnesses, the pope – to wild cheers from crowd – paused to bless a wheelchair-bound young man who the pontiff’s security detail lifted onto the stage.
Responding to a series of testimonies given just before his address, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for being in Chiapeneca, which has the “flavor” of family and a home. “I give thanks to God because of the heartbeat of his presence in your families,” he said.
He also thanked the families for their witness and hospitality. “You have allowed us to sit with you sharing both in the bread that nourishes you and in the sweat of your brow as you face the difficulties of every day.”
“It is the bread representing the joys, the hopes and the hard sweat with which you confront sadness, disillusion and failings. I thank you for allowing me to enter into your families, your homes, and to sit at your tables.”
One of the people who gave testimony was Manuel, a teenager in a wheelchair who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The pope responded to Manuel by name, acknowledging how he had put his “heart” into his life, his family, and his friendships.
“I believe that this is what the Holy Spirit always wants to do in our midst: to put a new heart into us, giving us reasons to keep on taking risks, dreaming and building a life that has this sense of home, of family… This is something which God the Father has always dreamt of and for which he has fought for a very long time.”
The pope reflected on examples throughout Scripture in which God placed a “new heart” into the people: he assured Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that all was not lost; he gave manna to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. Finally, “when the fullness of time came, God the Father put his heart into it by giving humanity the eternal gift of his Son.”
“Similarly, all of us here have had this experience, in different moments and different ways; God the Father has put his heart into it for us,” the pope said.
God “cannot do otherwise,” he said: “Because his name is love, his name is gift, his name is self-giving, his name is mercy.” This is shown in his Son, Jesus, in whom and with whom the “Kingdom of God” possible.
This Kingdom, the pope said, “invites us to share in a new mindset, that puts into motion a dynamic power capable of opening the heavens, capable of opening our hearts, our minds, our hands and capable of challenging us with new possibilities.”
“This is a Kingdom which has the feeling of family, the flavor of a life shared.” Jesus “is capable of changing our perspectives, attitudes, and feelings, which are often watery and dull, into the wine of joy and celebration,” the pope continued. “He can heal our hearts and invite us again and again, seventy times seven, to begin anew. He can make all things new.”
Pope Francis responded to Manuel’s request for prayers for those adolescents who are disillusioned and “on a wrong path,” many of whom “are deflated, tired and without aspirations.” “This attitude often comes from a feeling of loneliness, from not having someone to talk to,” he said.
He then turned to the testimony given by a woman named Beatrice, a single mother who had expressed her own struggle with uncertainty and loneliness. “Uncertainty, insufficiency, and often not having the bare essentials, can lead to despair, can make us deeply anxious because we cannot see a way forward, especially when we have children in our care,” the pope said.
Such uncertainty not only affects our “stomach,” but our soul as well, “demoralizing us and taking away our energy so that we seek apparent solutions that in the end solve nothing. This dangerous form of certainty is “born of solitude and isolation,” he said: “And isolation is always a bad counselor.”
“Very often the greatest temptation we face is to cut ourselves off, and far from putting our heart into things, this attitude of isolation ends up, like a moth, drying up our souls,” the Pope said, reflecting on the two testimonies.
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He touched on the various ways of overcoming “uncertainty and isolation” which makes people vulnerable: Legislation which ensures access to the basic necessities of life, including education and employment. The pope then reflected on the witness of Humberto and Claudia, a divorced and remarried couple who, in accordance to Church teaching, abstains from receiving the Eucharist. “Laws and personal commitment make good duo that can break the spiral of uncertainty.”
The pope concluded his address by reminding the Mexican people of their “advantage”: Our Lady of Guadalupe, before leading those present in reciting the Hail Mary. “She is always ready to defend our families, our future; she is always ready to put her heart into it by giving us her Son.”
This article originally appeared in Catholic News Agency.