Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a short course of reflection on three dimensions that beat the time, so to speak, of the rhythm of family life: celebration, work and prayer.
We begin with celebration. Today we will speak of celebration. And we say immediately that a celebration is an invention of God. We recall the conclusion of the account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, which we heard: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (2:2-3). God himself teaches us the importance of dedicating a time to contemplate and enjoy that what was well done in work. I speak of work, of course, not only in the sense of a job or profession, but in the wider sense: every action with which we men and women can collaborate in the creative work of God.
Therefore, a celebration is not the laziness of being in an armchair, or the elation of a foolish evasion, no. A celebration is first of all a loving and thankful look on work well done; we celebrate a work. Also you, newlyweds, are celebrating the work of a good time of engagement: and this is beautiful! It is the time to look at children or grandchildren who are growing and to think: how lovely! It is the time to look at our home, the guests we entertain, the community that surrounds us, and to think: what a good thing! God did this when he created the world, and he does so continually because God always creates, also at this moment!
It can happen that a celebration arrives in difficult or painful circumstances, and one celebrates perhaps “with a lump in one’s throat.” Yet, in these cases also we ask God for the strength not to divest it completely. You mothers and fathers know this well: how many times, out of love for the children, you are able to put aside displeasures to let them live a celebration well, to taste the good sense of life! There is so much love in this!
Sometimes in the work environment also – without failing in duties – we are able to “infiltrate” a burst of celebration: a birthday, a marriage, a new birth, as also a departure or a new arrival …, it’s important. It’s important to celebrate. They are moments of familiarity in the gears of the productive machine: it does us good!
However, a true time of celebration halts professional work and is sacred, because it reminds man and woman that they are made in the image of God, who is not a slave of work, but Lord; therefore, we also must never be slaves of work, but “lords.” There is a commandment for this, a commandment that concerns all; no one is excluded! And instead we know that there are millions of men and women and even children that are slaves of work! In this time they are slaves, they are exploited, slaves of work and this is against God and against the dignity of the human person! The obsession of economic profit and the efficiency of technology put at risk the human rhythms of life, because life has its human rhythms. A time of rest, especially that of Sunday, is given to us so that we can enjoy what is not produced or consumed, not purchased or sold. And instead we see that the ideology of profit and consumption also wants to consume the celebration: the latter is also reduced sometimes to a “doing,” to a way of making and spending money. But do we work for this? The greed of consuming, which entails waste is an awful virus that, among other things, in the end makes us feel more tired than before. It harms true work and consumes life. The disorderly rhythms of a celebration create victims — often young people.
Finally, the time of celebration is sacred because God dwells in it in a special way. The Sunday Eucharist brings to a celebration all the grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love, his sacrifice, his making us community, his being with us … And in this way every reality receives its full meaning: work, family, the joys and efforts of every day, also suffering and death; everything is transfigured by the grace of Christ.
The family is endowed with a extraordinary capacity to understand, direct and sustain the genuine value of the time of celebration. But how lovely are the celebrations in the family, they are most beautiful! – and, in particular, those of Sunday. It is no accident that the celebrations in which there is place for the whole family are those that succeed better! Family life itself, looked at with the eyes of faith, seems better than the efforts it costs. It seems a masterpiece of simplicity, good precisely because it is not artificial, or false, but able to incorporate in itself all the aspects of a true life. It appears as something “very good,” as God says at the end of the creation of man and of woman (cf. Genesis 1:31). Therefore, a celebration is a precious gift of God; a precious gift that God has made to the human family: let’s not ruin it!
We begin now a series of catecheses on three facets of family life: celebration, work and prayer. Let us turn first to celebrations which, as we see from the Story of Creation, are the invention of God, who on the seventh day rested from his work. It is God himself who teaches us the importance of dedicating time to contemplating and enjoying the fruits of our labours, not only in our employment or profession, but through every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work, even in times of difficulty. In the workplace too, we celebrate – a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a farewell or a welcome. True moments of celebration make us pause from our work, because they remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is not a slave to work, but the Lord of work! And so we must never be slaves to work but rather its master! Yet we know that millions of men and women, even children, are slaves to work. The obsession with economic profit and technical efficiency puts the human rhythms of life at risk. Moments of rest, especially on Sunday, are sacred because in them we find God. The Sunday Eucharist brings to our celebrations every grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love and his sacrifice; his forming us into a community, and his way of being with us. Everything is transfigured by his grace: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even our sufferings and death. May we always recognize the family as the privileged place to understand, guide and sustain the gifts which arise from our celebrations, especially the Sunday Eucharist.
I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from Malta, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago. May your families celebrate daily the Lord’s love and mercy, and be a sign of his abiding presence in the world. May God bless you all!
I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet you, affectionately, Sisters of Saint Martha, who are holding your General Chapter, and I exhort you to continue with joy the commitment to serve Jesus in our neediest brothers, in imitation of the founder, Blessed Tommaso Reggio, who liked to repeat to you: “charity has wings at the feet, fly there where the indigence of the poorest requires it.”
I greet the participants in the International Field promoted by the “Giorgio La Pira” Work for Youth and all those taking part in the “Ethics and Democracy” congress. A particular thought goes to the Chapter Members of the Sisters of Our Lady of Divine Love. I invoke upon all the abundance of gifts of the Holy Spirit for a renewed spiritual and apostolic fervor.
I cordially greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of Saint Clare of Assisi, luminous model for young people, who was able to live with courage and generosity her adherence to Christ. Imitate her example, particularly you, dear boys and girls, so that like her you can respond faithfully to the Lord’s call. I encourage you, dear sick, to unite yourselves every day with the suffering Jesus in bearing your cross with faith for the salvation of all men.
And you, dear newlyweds, be always in your family apostles of the Gospel of Love.