You don’t need to be a news junkie or a sociologist to know that families worldwide are hurting. Marriages do not last until death do us part, indeed many fail within a short three years. Only about half of the children living today will live with both of their biological parents until they reach age 18.
Absentee fathers, one or both parents in prison, drugs, gangs, and poverty brought on by all these factors plus high employment creates a nearly unstoppable force that shears apart that very fabric of the family.
War, disease and evil governments have torn apart families since time began but today, even families that dwell in rich countries with stable governments that are at peace with their neighbors, and who have access to modern medicine and ample opportunities for personal growth still fall apart at alarmingly high rates.
Many young adults come from families that experienced divorce and they have grown-up with the idea that forming a life-long commitment with one person is a fairy tale. The parts of the marriage vows that speak of in sickness, for poorer, and for worse are easily forgotten in a society where divorce no longer carries a stigma and has almost become a right of passage for adults.
True self-sacrificial love is a foreign concept to many people and no wonder. Much of the modern media preaches the Gospel of Self-Fulfillment at best while other examples glorify the abuse of others.
Certainly, there are individuals who are willing to sacrifice their very lives for others. You can find them among the Police, the Military, the Religious as well as within families and among select true friends. But sadly, many people decide staying is too hard, helping comes at too high a cost and only a fool would get involved.
To counteract this destructive force we need a role model to look up to, a person who exhibited courage even when they were faced with incredible hardship and danger. A person who stood their ground and is now in a position to help us as we struggle daily in this world where hardship and disappointment are all too common.
That person is Saint Joseph. He was born the descendant of royalty but that very fact placed his life in constant danger. He lived in enemy occupied land with a murdering madman, Herod, on the throne as Rome’s puppet. He became a refugee, fleeing to Egypt to save the life of his bride, Mary and her child, Jesus. He existed as a stranger in a strange land for years supporting his family with hard physical labor.
He lived a quiet life living obscurely so as to protect Mary and Jesus. He quaked at the pronouncement of a prophet who saw a sword would pierce his wife’s heart. He accepted the fact that he was the least worthy of their family but in obedience served as Master of their Home. He felt the anguish parents feel when their child is lost. He knew fear, fatigue, and bewilderment. But each day he rose, trusted God and then did what was required, all out of love for Mary and Jesus.
This pure self-sacrificial love is what is needed in our families today. Fidelity to our vows, humility to recognize our failings and courage to face each challenge while always being alert to the promptings of God.