A monthly commentary on “The Joy of Love” by Father Jacinto Farias

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Amoris Laetitia - First Chapter

The first chapter of the Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation is, in a certain way, organised programmatically.  It begins with a meditation in which Pope Francis considers the reality of couples and the family in the light of the word of God.  Yet, the word of God that we discover in sacred Scripture expresses on the one hand, God’s thinking about man, and on the other, the history of men and women God decided to travel alongside as their traveling companion, without ever deserting them, no matter what the circumstances, “…the word of God is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering. For it shows them the goal of their journey…” (A L22)

Inspired by Psalm 128, Pope Francis expresses God’s thinking about man and the family: he would like them to grow and mature in the image and resemblance of the very Holy Trinity. “The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.” (AL 11) But afterwards, he reminds us of, as Holy Scripture shows throughout history with the figures like David, a historical figure, and Adam and Eve, all the realism of man’s grandeur and misery, his nobility and his fragility, “Adam, who is also the man of every time and place, together with his wife starts a new family.  Jesus speaks of this by quoting the passage from Genesis: ‘The man shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ (Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24)” (AL 13) This notion of fragility, “a path of suffering and blood,” expressed in sacred Scripture exists, not only taking into account God’s thinking, but also the paradoxes of human freedom.  The “sin” (AL 19), that spoils and hides God’s plan for man, is the manifestation of it.  Nonetheless, God does not forego his project; he shows this in his divine, unconditional love, “Love also bears fruit in mercy and forgiveness.” (AL 27-28)

And so, it is with great realism, but also with great confidence, that Pope Francis invites us to meditate on “the joy of love.” Family love firstly, but also on all that is covered by love in our relationships with others.  Indeed, since we are children of the same Father, God, and of the same Mother, the Church, we are brothers.  Family relationships, marked by mercy, forgiveness and tenderness, are the common denominator that unites us all to the Lord.  “With a gaze of faith and love, grace and fidelity, we have contemplated the relationship between human families and the divine Trinity.  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.” (AL 29)

Father José Jacinto Ferreira de Farias, scj