January 14, 2010
The on-going debate about health care reform in the halls of Congress, on talk shows and around the kitchen table has focused attention on the increased inability of more and more families to provide even the basic care for their families. Housing, food and education all cost more today. Not surprisingly, many couples work full-time or have part-time jobs to meet their financial obligations. Already by the late 1990’s, 68 percent of children were being raised in homes where both parents were in the work force.
Today’s families come in all different shapes and sizes. In the last forty years, cohabitation has increased a staggering 1100%. People are now getting married later in life. Women marry around the average age of 25; men, around the age of 27. Nearly half of the marriages end in divorce; and, in a single year, nearly half the marriages are actually remarriages for at least one of the spouses. In 1970, traditional families, i.e. married couples with their own children, made up 40% of American households. Today, they make up about 24% of American households
Thus, no single definition fits every family. Yet, there is one constant that remains true. The family is one of the most important influences in a child's life. In the words of the Venerable Pope John Paul II, the “future of humanity passes by way of the family” (
Familiaris Consortio, n. 86). The irreplaceable role of the family can never be underestimated.
A recent poll conducted for
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. reported that most Americans still hold to basic family values. In fact, almost three quarters of all Americans agree that God has a plan for marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. Even as cohabitation, divorce and non-traditional family situations are accepted, most Americans still understand that these arrangements are not the best.
Just four days before Christmas of 2009, as Christians were preparing to celebrate the birth of the Son of God within the human family, Israeli archaeologists announced their discovery of a dwelling in Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament. The famous Jewish historian Josephus does not mention it. Nor the Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher Philo. Nor early rabbinic writings. Nazareth receives its prominence in Christian tradition as the town where the Word became flesh in Mary at the message of the angel Gabriel. It was the home where “Jesus grew in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52).
Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way village. It consisted of about fifty houses situated on four acres. The Jews living here were by no means wealthy. The absence of any remains of glass vessels or imported products shows that the people lived simple lives. The presence of clay and chalk vessels used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels suggest the family was observant of Jewish tradition.
Can these recent discoveries of the insignificant town of Jesus’ early years say something to us about family life in our present cultural context?
.....To be continued