Background: The following is an excerpt from the Viewer’s Guide to the video “Made for Life.” Earlier sections include reflections on openness to life, the gift of self and the gift of life, and children as a supreme gift. In this section, we’ll look at the call to welcome a child, the call to be a child, and how children bring hope and joy to the world.
“The idea that we were adding on to our family brought great joy.”
“Since having children, it’s been the best reflection of God’s love that I could ever define or try to describe.”
To welcome a child is to welcome hope. Lashawntra and Kevin both attest to the love, joy, and hope experienced when a husband and wife welcome a child. The child stands as a sign at odds with the doomsdayers, those who turn life into constant worry and fretfulness, and counter to the overly self-assured, those who presume upon their own capacities without trusting and hoping in God. The child points to the higher way of hope, beyond despair and presumption, because the child reminds us, by his or her very existence, that life and love are stronger than death, [i] and that life is worth living.
How does this relate to marriage? Recall the scene in the video where the wife joyfully announces to her husband that a new little baby is on the way. Marriage, as the union of husband and wife, is the only relationship that, by its very nature, is made to welcome the hope that comes with each new human life, and to connect a child with his or her biological father and mother. The call—the vocation—to welcome a child is uniquely built within the essence of marriage. Husbands and wives who stand ready to welcome children are a decisive witness to joyful hope, despite whatever hardships and sufferings come in this life.
Jesus regularly pointed to the child. [ii] He knew that the child reveals to us our deepest identity and calling. This may seem ironic, since a little child is helpless, defenseless, and “non-productive” by worldly standards. Even the disciples had a difficult time understanding this at first. The great temptation over the centuries has been to overlook and dismiss the child. And yet remember Jesus’ words: “‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Mt 18:3-4). All the successes and riches of the world don’t add up to the gift of being a child of God, the fundamental calling that unlocks the meaning of life. We are all called to become children of God (see 1 Jn 3:1), sons and daughters in Jesus, the Son of God (see Gal 4:4-7).
In the presence of an infant, we are reminded that we do not create ourselves, but are given by God, through the help of both our mother and father. The child unlocks for us the beauty of life as a sheer, undeserved, abundant gift from our heavenly Father. Life is meant to be lived in hope and in joy. Marriage, as the total, faithful, and life-giving union of a man and a woman, has the distinctive mission to share this hope and joy with the world.
[i]. See Bl. John Paul II, Letter to Families, no. 11: Every new birth is a “paschal sign,” a sign of the new life of Easter, and reflects “the victory of life over death brought about by the Lord’s Resurrection.”
[ii]. See Mt 18:1-5, 19:13-15; Mk 9:33-37, 10:13-16; and Lk 9:46-48, 18:15-17.