H.E. Jānis Cardinal Pujats, Archbishop emeritus of Riga, Latvia, delivered a video address to the participants of the Rome Life Forum on 17 May 2019.
My address today is about topical questions concerning society and the family.
When God created human beings, He said to them: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” Moreover, God dedicated three out of the Ten Commandments to the protection of the family: “Honour thy father and thy mother”, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife”. These laws reflect God’s care for the family.
What does a child receive in his family? First of all, in the family, he receives life from his parents. He grows up in his parents’ love and care. Secondly, in his family, the child learns the language; he does it easily and in a fundamental way. From the time of our own childhood, we know that without any special studies of grammar we learn to speak our mother tongue. Thirdly, in the family, the child gets acquainted with faith in God. He sees his parents pray in front of sacred images. He hears the words of prayer. And he himself gets the idea about God. Fourthly, while living in a family, the person learns all the basic skills necessary for human existence. When a child goes to school or learns some vocational skills, he lives with his family. College students also tend to stay with their families. In this way, they complete the necessary education for the rest of their lives.
As we can see, the initial period of a person’s life is very closely connected with the family. Indeed, one might say that family is a sanctuary or a repository of spiritual treasure. A treasure, which has to be guarded and defended, because it can be destroyed and plundered by the great Robber whom we know as Satan. We know from the Bible that Satan robbed the first human beings, Adam and Eve. After having talked to Satan, they discovered that they were completely naked. And, overcome with shame, they hid in the bushes of the Garden. However, the Paradise was lost.
It seems that the same great Robber is actively at work today. The States are legalising “same-sex marriage” one after another. People most often become lost because of sexual sins. In case of abortion, for example, doctors become executioners. Such a way leads to nowhere.
Why cannot two people of the same sex get married in a church? Firstly, because this kind of cohabitation is an empty parody of marriage, in which partners seek sexual gratification in a perverse way. Secondly, the Bible tells us that for such behaviour God punished the people of Sodom with fire. This means that we are talking about a grave sin.
In 1950, the French minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Schumann, came forward with the idea of a European Union as a community of nations deeply rooted in the Christian values. We should not abandon this idea or stray away from it. Indeed, every individual and the society at large need an ideal, a purpose that could inspire them in their lives.
Christ has said: “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Christ also tells us how to achieve this goal. If you want to enter the Kingdom of God and inherit eternal life, you must keep the Commandments. So, God and His justice are at the centre of Christian values. Unbelievers and the indifferent live with the conviction that after death, nothingness awaits them in the grave. Therefore, they are tempted to make the most of their life today without any responsibility or regard for eternity. However, at all times there are signals coming either from Heaven or from hell; but there has never been any signal coming out of nothingness. So, an unbeliever has nowhere to hide from responsibility. But those who believe and follow God’s Commandments, consider life as a service to God, which is a normal behaviour and way of life in this world.
Despite difficulties, believers feel like pilgrims on the way to a new and never-ending life in a heavenly Home. At the same time, they believe that the present life is governed by Divine Providence. Christ has said that “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” “Therefore, do not be afraid,” He said. We see that faith in God gives a profound meaning to human life. This should be respected and guaranteed by the educational system of every state: belief in God, so that people can have a worthy and consistent purpose in life.
God’s Commandments tell us what we shall and shall not do. Thus, God strictly separates good from evil. Human lawsuits also seek to strike the right balance in order not to convict an innocent man. This means that, in the public sphere, laws should only protect positive values. It is scandalous and strange that in many countries, the legalisation of “same-sex marriage” is justified by referring to so-called “sexual orientation”. It seems that in reality this “orientation” is most often acquired in practice, just like an alcoholic acquires the habit of drinking. Just like every other vice acquired by practice, it is not an orientation but simply a vice.
The same is true in the sexual life. However, the concept of “virtue” does not change as a result of a vote in the Parliament. It is important that every new generation does not change its position and that it defends family values.
The Holy Scripture says that every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. This is the difference between God’s requirements and human laws. God’s Commandments first require us to love God more than anything else in our life. And each and every person as ourselves. This is the ideal.
God’s Commandments protect the inner freedom of the person. They give him independence from sinful habits that enslave him. There are many people who are spiritually and materially devastated because they serve their vices like slaves. This clearly shows the consequences that await people who choose to ignore God’s law. But where can we find the strength to live according to God’s will? Christ gives us an answer: “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” It is important to seek contact with God in prayer as often as possible. This is possible without any aids. The only thing you need is a living faith and the openness of the heart before God.
According to the Gospel of Christ, man has flesh and an immortal soul. Concerning human flesh, science and medicine have sufficiently explored it. It does not contain any special secrets. But as far as the human soul and his spiritual life are concerned, it is unique to every man, and everyone keeps it secret. No one can look into another man’s soul. Even the most sophisticated technical devices are unable to hear and to determine a man’s thoughts. The inner life is real, very secret and very rich. A person’s reason and will, his plans and good intentions, his skills and talents, faith and virtues, his relationships with God and men, the unfathomable treasury of his memory – all that is a very rich reality hidden in the depth of every man’s soul. This reality is unique to every person and inimitable. It is a witness to the existence of the human soul. With this spiritual treasure, the person will stand before God at the end of his life. He can also end up in the claws of Satan, depending on how he lived his life.
In His mercy, God deemed it necessary to help us, human beings, on our earthly way – albeit in a very delicate manner, still leaving us the freedom to choose our own destiny. God Himself came on this earth and lived among men for 33 years, so that people could see him as a child, a teenager, a young man, and an adult man, who sacrifices His own life as a martyr for the salvation of mankind. Once his mission was accomplished, he went back to the Kingdom of Heaven. And his mission is being continued by all Christians acting and contributing to the common effort.
This is what I have to say today. Thank you for your attention.