The ambient temperature this morning in this city was minus 32 and the windchill was minus 40. The cause is the polar vortex, and it has lingered for days, is forecast to linger days more, with things dropping during the night between minus 40 to minus 50 and this vortex is reaching deep into the United States as well.
Being homeless is difficult in the warmer weather of late spring to early fall, in winter being homeless is brutal, dangerous and at times our homeless brothers and sisters risk freezing to death. No matter the weather in these days of mask wearing, social distancing, lockdowns, the homeless do not have the means to do any of that. Shelters are not designed for social distancing, or any of the other rules put in place in most of the world’s countries, besides vulnerability to the vagaries of weather our homeless brothers and sisters are vulnerable to this pernicious virus.
Every homeless person, whatever their age right now, however they came to be homeless, each was a child, born into this time in human history. Some may well have grown up in a loving family, others not. Most, until whatever happened, quickly or by degrees that they are now homeless, had dreams, plans, ideas, hopes, as children, as teenagers, about where their own path in life would lead.
To be homeless is a word painful in its very utterance for it means to be without. Without a home. Note we never say of our brothers and sisters they are ‘house-less’! Home implies more than shelter in the physical structure of a house. Home is the reality of love dwelling within: spousal love, parental love, sibling love, meant to flow from the previous generations to the current generation, to generations yet to be born.
It is family which makes ‘home’ the normative reality. It matters not if the structure is a palace, a mansion, ordinary house, a shack, even a tent in a refugee camp. What matters is the love dwelling within, the love which places spouse, parent, child, sibling before self, as Christ does for us for He dwells within us, transforming our bodies from structure into the home wherein He, the Father, the Holy Spirit delight to dwell.
Without getting into the raging debates about this pandemic, pro and con, how governments are responding to it all, rightly or wrongly, it is critical we be aware of the impact in these continuing days of the fog and shadows of the pandemic, on the family and family life.
Family is the foundational bedrock of civilization: first school of love, faith, hope, trust, and all that is authentically human, from art to zoology and everything in between, originates in the heart of the family.
No family is perfect or without conflict, hurt, disappointment, grief, for we all know that as human beings we have weaknesses and inner struggles which impact all familial relationships, sometimes even rupturing the cohesion of the family.
It is perhaps a harsh reality to accept that ever since Cain slew his brother the human family, individual families, the entire human family, the family of nations – except for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – has been dysfunctional. Even the most cursory glance any day of the week at international, national, local news reveals this dysfunction, often times on a horrific scale when it comes to violence and hatreds within the human family and, tragically, within individual families. The political, economic, lockdowns and other aspects of this pandemic means both international, national and individual families are under extreme stress.
Often times, because we as individuals cannot control world events of any type, there is a very real danger of turning this frustration inward and taking it out upon members of our own immediate family.
Satan is active in the swamp of frustration, the desire we have to be in control, if not of the world or our own government then of some individual in, or our entire, family. Satan’s goal in all that is to disrupt, destroy, authentic love at every level and in ever aspect of human life, individual, familial, global.
In 1994 St. John Paul wrote a letter to families in which, towards the end, he teaches: I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every fatherhood and motherhood is named, "that he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man" (Eph 3:16). I willingly return to these words of the Apostle, which I mentioned in the first part of this Letter. In a certain sense they are pivotal words. The family, fatherhood and motherhood all go together. The family is the first human setting in which is formed that "inner man" of which the Apostle speaks. The growth of the inner man in strength and vigour is a gift of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. 
For the above to come about, by grace ardently asked for, the “I am third” [God first, my neighbour second, I am third] principle applies, for our proximate neighbour is right before us in our own family: Grandparents place their children, their children’s spouses and their children, the grandchildren, in that second place, spouses likewise for each other, for their own parents, now elderly and very much needing family still, and the children for their parents, siblings, grandparents, must also love likewise.
The hope for our nations, for all the nations of the world, lies in this familial communion of love. Yes, it demands humility, selflessness, loving and forgiving hearts. Given that we are weak human beings we may well have to begin to build this familial communion of love anew each morning, which is why it is critical we never go to sleep with anger in our hearts towards anyone, not even towards self or God.
The following wisdom applies to each of us, to our ‘I am third’ baptismal vocation within our individual families and as persons within the human family: Many around us, in fact the whole of humanity, are struggling to find their way through a terrible mist. We must dedicate our lives to building bridges of hope which will lead them to God, who is their supreme goal, everlasting love, and total fulfillment. In Him, no one is estranged from one another, and we are all brothers and sisters. [2a] The secret to understanding events in our world is very simple. Use the Gospel to nourish your soul. Once you are united with Christ, you will share in His Spirit which leads you to ask, “How does God look at the world?” The answer is at the center of our faith: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) 
Each of us needs to look deeply into our hearts in front of the members of our own family and the entire human family and ask: Am I loving them as the Holy Trinity loves me?
1] http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_02021994_families.html para. 23
2a & 2b] THE ROAD TO HOPE, a gospel from prison; Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; pp. 161/162 & 166; Wellspring 2018
© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph
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