“The human family is, in a certain sense, the icon of the Trinity because of the love between its members and the fruitfulness of that love.”
— Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
God wants us to know and love him intimately. But how do you get to know someone you’ve never seen? One way is to send them a picture.
This is exactly what God does by creating the family. We all know human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27), but God isn’t an individual; he is Trinity — a communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we were going to draw a picture of God, it wouldn’t look like one person, it would look like a communion of persons. It would look like a family!
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist as a mutually loving relationship that is both uniting (because the three are one) and creative (because the power of their love causes life to come into being). The Trinity loves to love and create.
The Trinity doesn’t just create life and leave it alone. God loves what he creates, calls that creation into deep union with himself and rejoices in the life he shares with his creation. Moms and dads don’t just have babies, they love those children, rejoice in those children and work to create a communion of love that grows stronger in its unity and bigger (in one way or another) with time. God extends an invitation to the world to join his family through the loving witness of your family.
But if families are called to be the picture of God’s face to the world, how can we make sure that the image of God the world sees when they look at our families is clear, bright and in focus?
• Pray together: Families need to pray and worship together to learn how to love one another with the love that comes from God’s own heart. Families that pray and participate in the sacraments together are actively learning to love at the feet of the Master. Praying individually makes us God’s children. Praying together makes us God’s family, a domestic church.
• Love deeply: The love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit knows no bounds. Our families are also called to love one another deeply. How do we make this happen? We take time for each other. Parents who do not have time for one-on-one time with each of their children cannot communicate the intimate love God has in his heart for each of us. A family that doesn’t have time to be together cannot learn to be the team that represents the togetherness of the Trinity. Families cannot be an image of the Trinity by being collections of individuals sharing a roof and a data plan. Family time and parent-child time must come first.
• Love generously: The purer a love is, the more it longs to be shared. God creates because he loves. Work to make your family a deeply loving place, and consider the many ways you might be able to share that love. There are many ways to share the love you experience in your family. Welcome that next child through birth or adoption. Support other families in loving each other better through small acts of kindness. Host a family for dinner. Be the peaceful, joyful, welcoming home where your kids’ friends love to hang out. Work together as a family in your parish or community to serve those in need. Find ways to let others participate in the love your family shares just as God offers us ways to enter into the loving family that is the Trinity.
• Love joyfully: God asks those he loves to rejoice in that love (Phil 4:4). He wants us to live life more abundantly (Jn 10:10). Celebrate your life as a family. Create rituals for working, talking and praying together — and most of all, playing together! Remember Pope Francis’ encouragement, telling parents to “waste time with your children.” We were created to be happy forever with God in heaven. The family that rejoices together, plays together and laughs together creates a taste of heaven on earth.
God wants your family to become an amazing work of art that shows his face of love to the world. God wants your family to paint a picture with your lives that will change the world and call all of his children home to him. Let him make something beautiful in you!
Greg and Lisa Popcak are the executive director and vice president, respectively, of the Pastoral Solutions Institute.