Families learn

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico S.J. - The Philippine Star

It is difficult to make sense of current events all around the world and even in our communities. When we hear and witness acts of violence, the proliferation of unkind words and uncharitable attitudes, we begin to ask where are our country and our world going to? In asking these questions, we try to approach people who may be able to hear our stories and questions. We even resort to using social media that oftentimes only amplifies the questions that we ask without being able to provide meaningful solutions to the answers that we seek. We often look into institutions that traditionally share this endeavor of meaning-making, but even these are threatened as well by the way the world is popularly viewed today. Perhaps the situation calls us to go back to basics – to work at the foundations of what we hold dear. Perhaps as a nation, this calls us to go back to the roots of the basic unit of our social institutions – the family!

As the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family today, we encounter an example of how we may imitate the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In the Gospel reading, we hear of how Jesus was lost in the temple. We hear how Mary and Joseph searched for him for days before finding their Son. Looking at the scene, it was indeed a crisis! It was a situation that would have brought out the worse from every person but instead, it became a learning moment for every member of the Holy Family. The last lines give us a clue about how the life-learning took place. Jesus went down with Joseph and Mary to Nazareth and lived under their authority. Mary stored all these things in her heart. These present that the life-journey was also a learning moment for both the child and the parents.

We hear of their conversations as well as the actions that they took. But what is most important is how those who follow Jesus also become witnesses to how one increases in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and others. Following Jesus enables people to learn and grow in grace. It may not be easy. But doing so gives a person meaning and purpose in life.

There is the phrase that says, “one cannot give what one does not have.” It is in the same light that as the younger generation of learners are asked to learn what is true, their educators, or the older generation of learners, ought to show that they themselves go through the same rigor and struggle that they ask their students to do – that they also need to nurture their minds and hearts!

Pope Paul VI (1975), talked about this value decades ago when he mentioned to a group of educators that persons of modern times listen “more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if one does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Perhaps, the best models of educators are those who are able to communicate to their learners that they are learners as well, especially in moments of crisis. When teachers cease to be the only persons in the classroom who can contribute to the discussion, there are more collaborative persons who are able to share their thoughts and feelings. When learners realize that their educators struggle to make meaning out of the experiences that they encounter, they can take part in a shared environment of learning. It is this same dynamic that we may practice in our families. When the whole community can claim that there is a common ground where learning takes place, then one bears testimony to what is shared and witnessed by all.

Taking on this responsibility of trust is the value of being a witness at this present time and in this present place, for this present generation. It is having the courage to commit and stay the course and the character of getting through the hard business of living. It is to hold fast to the strength of love for friends, family, and nation (Ressa, 2015). These are the ties that deeply bind relationships and set our spirits to freely choose in courage.

As Plato pointed out, the youth will surely hear casual tales from casual people. This is especially true at this moment in time. That is a given. The responsible thing is to equip them and hope that they will carry the torch forward as they continue to make sense of the noise and even the silences that they hear. It therefore becomes a responsibility of families, to learn and live out good values. As good values are chosen, practiced and bequeathed, the younger generation will have to figure out how they may be able to pass on these learnings to their own families as well.

No family is perfect, but families can learn. It is with this optimism that families can indeed be seedbeds of grace, seedbeds of peace, seedbeds of hope that things will soon be well in God’s manner and season.

Wishing everyone a grace-filled 2019. May it continue to be a year of truthful and genuine learning for us all. May we also be free to invite God’s Spirit to live and reign in our families as well. Blessings!

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