Perfect Families

by Fr. John Harris

Why people continue to tell lies about life?

Over the holidays, I met with some friends and we were talking about events during the past year. One friend, who has a very unhappy marriage, asked, ‘why people continue to tell lies about life?’ Concerned, we asked her what she meant. She said that people continue to talk about love, marriage and families, as if they are all meant to be perfect but our lived experiences tell us a very different story.

It is true that all families have problems and yet we talk about the mythical ‘perfect family’, as if there is some ideal that we all seem to fall short of. Yet, we don’t fall short; it is just the way things are in our fallen world. Every bride goes up the aisle, and the groom waits at the top, hoping for a happy life together, while all around them, they see so many break-ups and hardships. Why is it that, in the midst of so much proof to the contrary, we continue to believe that love is possible? 

Where we learn to love and forgive

We talk about dysfunctional families, when in fact, not one of us has seen a truly ‘text-book’ perfect family. We know that what makes families so important is the fact that in the midst of so much trouble and sadness, dysfunctionality and broken relationships, this is the one place where we learn to love and forgive. It is in the family that we learn so much of the ‘give and take of life’ that makes life liveable. What is it about our human spirit, that it continues to hope, even in the midst of so much sorrow and disappointment? Why is it that the human family hasn’t become totally cynical and negative about itself?

God’s Grace

The answer is God. God’s grace in the human soul keeps us alive and hopeful. We live in a fallen world and all I have been writing about is proof of that. The effects of the goodness of God can never be destroyed by evil and sin. Although, at times, it may seem as if evil has destroyed everything, it is not the case. God, in His mercy, continues to sustain us and hold us in His hands. 

God sees our potential for love and goodness

In Jesus, we see how God’s goodness is present in our midst. With His help, we can find “the way, the truth and the life”. God wants us to be the best we can be. He comes with His grace to help us. Our selfishness discourages us and isolates us, but Jesus sees a beauty in us, that we sometimes don’t see in ourselves. 

St. Peter

When St. Peter met Jesus the first time, he realised that he was in the presence of supreme holiness and he felt ashamed. St. Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”. But, Jesus turned to him in mercy and said that he would make him a fisher of men. St. Peter was aware of his faults and failings but Jesus saw his gifts and honesty. 

St. Mary Magdalene

When people saw St. Mary Magdalene, they saw a poor sinner with a history and someone to be avoided. Jesus saw her goodness and how she could be a true disciple. God continues to see the goodness in each of us and invites us into that goodness. His call to mercy is a call to be good and true, to be the best we can be. 


In a world with so much sadness and pain, broken dreams and shattered lives, the presence of God’s mercy keeps us hopeful. Deep within our spirit, a spirit that comes to life when it encounters the grace of God, we still rejoice at a young couple’s wedding, we can still trust that the love of a father and a mother is irreplaceable, and that the family is the very foundation of society, in spite of all our short-comings. 

Everybody Hurts

Everyone you meet, every day, for the rest of your life has sorrows, regrets and spiritual pain. We must try to remember this and maybe remember the advice of St. Paul, “Do not use harmful words in talking. Use only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed so that what you say will do good to those who hear you”. 

The Importance of Prayer

Of course we have joyful and happy moments too, but the reality of life is that it can be a daily toil. But unless we learn how to pray, reflect and meditate, we are adding to our suffering. Prayer strengthens us daily. We all ‘labour and are overburdened’ so we need to go to Jesus and rest with Him every single day. 

Prayer is not a daily chore to be accomplished like laundry or cooking. Prayer is the most important part of every day. It is in prayer that we discuss our troubles with God. Talk to Him as if you are talking to the best friend you can ever imagine, who will never reject you or judge you, no matter what you talk about. That is not to say you can take advantage of His goodness, but you can trust in His goodness and understanding. 

Honesty with ourselves and God

We must remember when we talk with Jesus about our problems, particularly our problems with other people, that we should never be so bold as to think we are perfect and it is everybody else’s fault. We can never justify our wrong-doings to Him, for He won’t accept that, and we will continue to suffer. But if we are honest and fair with ourselves and God, sincerely sorry for our mistakes, intentional or unintentional, He seems to gives us wisdom and insight so that we can understand our errors and grow in wisdom. It is this growth in wisdom that helps us to avoid troubles in the future, and resolves problems in easier way. This is what it means by ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.

Padre Pio's Advice On Prayer

Padre Pio gave two pieces of advice in regards to prayer. They are, “Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact, on certain occasions, you should only speak to Him with your heart” and “If you can talk with the Lord in prayer, talk to Him, offer Him your praise; if, due to great weariness, you cannot speak, do not find displeasure in the ways of the Lord. Stay in the room like servants of the court do, and make a gesture of reverence. He will see you, and your presence will be pleasing to Him. He will bless your silence and at another time you will find consolation when He takes you by the hand”.

Our True Gift to our Family this Christmas

Prayer for our family this Christmas should be our true gift to them, especially the ones we constantly fight with or even dislike. None of us are perfect, and neither are our families, but through prayer and the aid of God’s grace, we can find a way to cope with our problems, learn from them and maybe even heal broken relationships.

We must continue to hope that through prayer, anything is possible. We will never live in a perfect world, surrounded by amazing people, without any problems. This is the reality of life. But we can grow, learn and become wise, which will help us to cope and to become strong enough to help others, which is our true Christian calling from God. 




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