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Scripture in the papal exhortation on families

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Catholic News Service

Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” is the result of the work developed at the two synods on the family that were held at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015.

While much of the content of this exhortation is taken from the findings that were voted on by the bishops who attended the synods, the exhortation is firmly rooted in Scripture.

Many references from Scripture appear in the first chapter when the theological foundations are laid for the teaching that follows. Pope Francis begins by reflecting on the importance of families in the Bible.

He says: “The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the bride and the lamb.

“Jesus’ description of the two houses, one built on rock and the other on sand, symbolizes any number of family situations shaped by the exercise of their members’ freedom, for, as the poet says, ‘every home is a lampstand.'”

Next, he quotes the passage from Psalm 128:1-6, which includes the lines, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home, your children like young olive plants around your table”; this introduces the reader to the traditional blessing offered for families.

Citing Matthew 19:4, Pope Francis notes in the document that the family is centered around a “father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself.” In so doing, Pope Francis establishes the tone and the feeling that extends throughout the rest of the exhortation.

Citing 1 Timothy 4:4 (“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving”), the pope lays the theological foundation for the vocation of the family. He includes here the recognition of the importance of sexuality within marriage as a “divine gift.”

Reflecting on Matthew 19, Pope Francis notes that in marriage we see the fulfillment of God’s original plan. No wonder families are frequently called the “domestic church.”

Pope Francis brings the exhortation to a close with a reflection on the spirituality of marriage and the family by again turning to Scripture. He writes that God “dwells deep within the marital love that gives him glory.”

He also offers the moving thought that “each spouse is for the other a sign and instrument of the closeness of the Lord, who never abandons us,” citing Matthew 28:30 as the source of this insight.

Pope Francis encourages us to read the exhortation slowly and thoughtfully. As you read, also take time to reflect on the scriptural passages found there.

(Mulhall is a catechist who lives in Laurel, Maryland.)