By Archbishop William E. Lori
On April 8, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” in English, “The Joy of Love.” The document was signed a few weeks earlier, not by coincidence, on the Feast of St. Joseph during this Year of Mercy. The document lays out the church’s beautiful vision of marriage and family life as imaged for us through the Holy Family but explains that, despite our best efforts, on occasion we fall short and are in need of God’s Mercy, as well as the mercy of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, or, even, sons and daughters.
This exhortation flows from the two recent Synods on the Family where bishops, theologians and couples gathered from around the world to discuss the growing crisis of marriage and family. As many of you saw through the media coverage, these meetings were filled with honest discussions about everything from divorce to same-sex marriage and even gender theory. Through the course of these conversations it quickly became clear that, around the globe, marriages and families are struggling and the church must be a place that nourishes family life, no matter how broken.
Because of the diversity of cultural situations, the pope acknowledges the possible limitations of “The Joy of Love.” However, Pope Francis knows the truth that speaks to every family in every time and on every continent, the truth of the Gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus is asked about the challenges of marriage, he turns his audience’s gaze to the beginning, “for this reason a husband should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two should become one.” So too, Pope Francis uniquely helps us understand today’s struggles in the light of God’s Word. This is especially helpful to priests and others who, on behalf of the church, minister to married couples and families, including during challenging and difficult times.
“The Joy of Love” moves through Scripture and continues with the rich texts of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis’ predecessors, Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We must remember that this exhortation is not meant to change any teaching or practice of the church but is Pope Francis’ encouragement to the faithful in today’s situation. And, as Pope Francis has done throughout his entire pontificate, he exhorts us to never forget the suffering and marginalized. The same love and care we strive to give a spouse should be given to the hurting member of our church. Let us pray that we can all respond with such generosity.
I would invite you to read “The Joy of Love” because it is a beautiful affirmation of the church’s teaching on marriage and family life, but, even more so, because it is an invitation for us as believers to ponder more deeply the mystery of love and mercy. I will simply conclude with Pope Francis’ words: “What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine. May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.”
Let us continue to seek this communion in our own families and in the church, our family of families.
Read more of Archbishop Lori’s commentary and homilies here.