On June 18, 2019, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles delivered the keynote address at the annual liturgy conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, speaking on the pastoral state of the family.
“Today we are looking at a future generation in which there may be far fewer children,” said Archbishop Gomez, “many young people are debating whether it is ‘ethical’ to have kids in an age of global warming. There is an even larger conversation going on among millennials about the ‘value’ of starting a family.”
Birth rates are declining across the Western world. People are no longer having children. There is a common belief among Millennials that the world is over-populated and we are running out of resources to support the demand of new human life. The reality is that most western nations are experiencing sub-replacement fertility rates.
Archbishop Gomez pointed out that childlessness is not considered one of the major issues facing families today.
Usually when we talk about the state of the family, we talk about a cluster of issues – contraception and abortion; divorce rates, out-of-wedlock births, people living together rather than getting married; we talk about the growth of same-sex unions and the confusion about sex that we see in our society.
Continuing, Archbishop Gomez said that our “society has rejected what 20 centuries of Christian civilization considered a basic fact of nature – that most men and women will find their life’s purpose in forming loving marriages, working together, sharing their lives, and raising children.”
To address this crisis to the vocation of marriage and family life, Archbishop Gomez has established five pastoral priorities in his archdiocese. One of these priorities is “Promoting marriage and the family as sacred institutions and the heart of a civilization of love.” He feels that the formation of small faith communities is crucial in helping couples and families “grow in their love of Jesus and their commitment to living the Gospel.”
Archbishop Gomez outlined a pastoral strategy for the evangelization of the family. First, he said that we need to “rediscover the radical ‘newness’ of the Christian message about the family. In the time of St. Paul, his message of husbands loving their wives as Christ loves His Bride the Church (Eph 5:25) was radical indeed. Women were considered property at that time and for Paul to call for radical submission of the husband and wife to each other out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21) was counter-cultural. “Before Christianity, no one had ever spoken about marriage in terms of a love that lasts a lifetime, or as a calling from God, or as a path that can lead to holiness and salvation.”
Continuing, Archbishop Gomez described how the family evangelized the culture…
The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived. And the way they lived was to be in this world but not of this world. They lived the same lives as their neighbors, but in a different way.
They entered into marriage as a life-long relationship of friendship and mutual devotion, and they considered it a sacrament, a mysterious sign of God’s love for his people.
They rejected birth control and abortion and welcomed children in joy as a gift from God and treated them as precious persons to be loved and nurtured and brought up in the ways of the Lord.
The first Christian families changed the world — simply by living the teachings of Jesus and his Church. And my friends, we can change the world again, by following the same path.
Archbishop Gomez’s second point is that we need to rediscover “the Christian vision for life and human happiness.” Our culture has lost sight of what brings true joy and happiness in life. It is the Christian narrative that reveals the “real truth about human life and human destiny – the amazing reality that we are all made by a God who loves us as a Father and calls us to live as one family.” God is love and He calls husbands and wives, united in life-long marriage, to reveal His love to the world through their self-sacrificial love for each other and their children. This is the hope of the world so desperately seeking meaning and purpose in life.
“We need to tell this good news to our neighbors,” said Archbishop Gomez, “that this God of love, who created the galaxies and oceans and mountains in the beginning, is still at work today, still creating…everything that is, comes from the thought of his love. And God intends his plan for creation, for history, to unfold through the human family.”
This is why the Bible begins with a wedding – the marriage of Adam and Eve in the garden. And this is why the Bible’s final pages again show us a wedding – the marriage supper of Jesus Christ and his Bride, his Church at the end of time.
From the beginning, God is creating – from out of all the peoples of the earth – one single family. The family of God. His Church.
So, it is not by accident that Jesus comes into this world, born of a mother’s womb and raised in a human family. And it is no coincidence that he performs his first public miracle at a wedding.
My friends, this is the story that has been entrusted to us. And this is why what you do in your own homes, and what you are doing in your ministries to support marriages and families, is so important.
God is inviting all of us to participate in the mystery of his own work of creation and his own plan for the redemption of the world.
We are called to help every married couple realize this vocation – to live their love forever in a mutual and complete gift of self; to renew the face of the earth with children, who are the fruits of their love and the precious love of our Creator.
Our culture today is in desperate need of witnesses to the beauty, truth, and goodness of the Church’s teaching regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony and their important task of being co-creators with God in the raising of children.
By the love in our homes – by the sacrifices we make and the love that we hold in our hearts and pass on to our children – we are called testify to this God who is our Creator and Father. This God, who holds all of this world – and every one of us – in his loving hands.
This is our Father’s plan for your family and for every family. And this is the mission of his Church.
The full text of Archbishop Gomez’s address can be found here.
 Wikipedia, Sub-replacement fertility, internet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-replacement_fertility (accessed June 29, 2019).