Love Begins at Home

BROWSING THROUGH a book the other day a piece of paper fell out. On it was written these words by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “How can you say that you love God who you cannot see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you may see” (1 John 4.20). I think, this is something we all have to understand: that love begins at home. In our day we see with growing clarity that the sorrows of the world have their origin in the family. We do not have time to look at each other, to exchange a greeting, to share a moment of joy, we take less time to be what our children expect of us, what our spouse expects of us. “Thus each day we belong less and less to our own homes.” Mother Teresa concludes by writing, “But how will we be able to love the poor if we do not begin by loving the members of’ our own family. Love, I will never get tired of saying it, begins at home.”

This spoke to my heart and challenged the pattern of my life. As a family man with a wife and five children (four still at home) I recognised the truth at the heart of Mother Teresa’s message; that the great and important duties and demands of the Christian Life cannot but begin to unravel if the simple tasks and fundamental courtesies of family life are pushed to one side. How many families are stunted in their growth because “church involvement” gets in the way? It is imperative that “we seek and pray for a renewal of’ Christian Family life in our nation.” It is only within the renewal of family that the renewal of Christian witness and the renewal of society can begin.

With these thoughts and prayers circulating in. my mind I came across a little book entitled “Suffering” by the French writer Fr. Evely. In a pointed attack on Christians who seek suffering by way of a penance he said this, ” I believe a proper form of penance in our own society is to get enough sleep, to eat good food properly prepared and to spend quality time with our families.” He is arguing, I think, that our spirit of “self-discipline and self-sacrifice” would further the kingdom of God more if we used them to receive more fully and seize more energetically the gifts and opportunities of being in a family. If we judge that our family life is in some way inhibiting our Christian Life this is a cause for asking ourselves testing questions about our understanding of the way in which Christ calls us and nurtures us in Faith and Hope and Love.

There is no doubt that the home is a place of’ revelation. The mystery of the Incarnation is lived out in a home and family setting. A prayer in the marriage service asks that Our Lord Jesus Christ who shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home reign in the home of these thy servants as Lord and King. There is a desperate need for us to have a true religion that binds the pattern and rhythm of our family life to the kingdom of God. We must ensure we are bound together with prayer – opening our lives to The Lord in something as simple as The Grace before meals is surely a Christian duty.

Family life and Christian life cannot become divided if there is a clear understanding of the way in which God calls us into relationship with Him and one another. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” As John’s Gospel makes clear, Christ comes to dwell in His own “home” that we might come to dwell in Him who is our true “home”. St John’s account of the crucifixion presents a powerful and vivid image of the nature of the Church; Our Lady and John the Apostle stand at the foot of the cross and Jesus’ commandment to them both creates a new family of Mother and Son; we are told that from that time John ” took her into his own home.” It is in a home that the community of faith has its foundations, it is in the home that the faith is best taught and nurtured; it is to our heavenly home that we are called, where at the table we shall sit and eat with the Father and the Son. Love does begin and also finds its end at home; our very souls are in peril if’ we forget it.

Andy Hawes is Vicar of Edenham with Witham-on-the-Hill in the Diocese of Lincoln and a member of General Synod