October 4-5, 1997 will see a great gathering of families from throughout the world with the Holy Father in Rio de Janeiro. It will be a festive gathering, rooted in a common reflection on the Word of God and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Its theme will be "The Family: Gift and Commitment, Hope for Humanity."
The first aspect of the theme reminds us that the family is a gift. It is not a mere human creation, but begins with God's initiative. Because He has spoken, we cannot change the message. Because He creates the family, we cannot refashion it at whim. Because His word is the truth, we can be liberated from the divisive forces of error pulling us in so many contradictory directions. An attentive hearing of God's word about the family will therefore mark the events of Rio.
Receiving such a gift in turn requires a commitment, the second major point of the theme of Rio. This commitment, simply put, is the response of love. On the cross, Christ showed that love means self-giving. We are called to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other person, rather than sacrificing another person for the good of ourselves.
In short, we are called to live the words by which Christ gave us the Eucharist. Strangely, those who promote philosophies and lifestyles contrary to the good of the family use these very same words: This is my body. "This is my body," some will say, "so I can do what I want, whether it is free sex, abortion, or anything else. It's my body and I will live as I please." But what does our Lord say? "This is my body, given up for you." He does not cling to His body so that others die; rather, He gives it away so that others may live. We do the same, thanks to the grace given to us in the Eucharist, which will be the culminating event of the Rio gathering.
When families live in this way, the world has hope. The third dimension of the Rio theme, and its climax, is hope. This hope will be celebrated in the presence of the Vicar of Christ, who in his own ministry calls on the world not to be afraid to hope! Sins against life and family are so often sins of despair. But the task of our day and the nature of our mission as the People of Life are to say, "Have hope! The power of life is stronger than death. The power of live is stronger than hate. The power of the family is stronger than all the forces which threaten it!" May the Second World Meeting of Families with the Holy Father in Rio de Janeiro kindle this hope in every human heart.