In a dark room, peering into a crystal ball, the Mystic delivered the grave news:
"Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year."
Visibly shaken, the woman took a few deep breaths to compose herself, but she simply had to know. She met the Fortune Teller's gaze and asked, "Will I be acquitted?"
After taking a moment to enjoy the above anecdote, most of us would agree that we have developed insensitivity to the whole question of divorce and sometimes even marriage. The sacredness of family has suffered in our age.
My mother often said, "The family that prays together, stays together." That was not my favourite expression as a child. I found the family rosary we prayed daily a little burdensome. I have since learned about its treasure.
As Christians we have a sacred responsibility to build and sustain the union of marriage. In discussing the mysteries of the incarnation Father Ron Rolheiser explains how followers of Christ have power to forgive sin and to bind others in the family of God.
Matthew 18:18 tells us Jesus spoke these words to his disciples: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven." As followers of Christ these words apply to us with equal power.
The application of this promise of Christ works for the family as well as the church. If a family member is loved, he remains a member of the family. If a church member is held in prayer and love, she remains a member of the congregation, whether she still attends Sunday worship or not.
This is the basis of much hope. Our wayward children may stop attending church on Sunday, but if we hold them in our prayers and love, they will remain bound to God's family. True, at some point they will have to make a conscious decision to act on or accept this union. But until then they are not lost to God's family.
Conversely, when the devil breaks up a family and divides husband and wife, children and parents, God's family suffers and there is joy in hell.
What a wonderful gift and responsibility parents have, to be able to hold their family in God's fold! Truly, the family that prays together stays together. Let me share a brief example Ron used to illustrate Matthew 18:18.
A mother of eight asked Ron how this could possibly apply to her family. All eight of them were wayward, not living the Christian faith. "It would be too good to be true," she said, if she could bind them to Christ. "What a marvellous definition of Jesus' love", Ron assured her. "It is too good to be true!"
As Christians our calling is to do the work of Christ. We can be the hands and feet, the mouth and heart of Christ in our families and community. We simply help to speed along the coming of the Kingdom when God's love will triumph on earth.