FOR SUNDAY BREAKFAST
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14, Colossians 3:12-21, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.
Today being the first Sunday after Christmas, the holy mother church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. The three represents each member of our own family and further as serve as exemplar for our own families today. All the readings of today point towards how the family can grow in love and holiness. This shows how the family also become an essential factor in our journey to holiness.
The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: “Honour your father and your mother.” In this reading children were reminded of their duty to honour their parents even when it becomes difficult. According to Sirach, obedience to this admonition leads to riches and long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey, revere, and show compassion to their father. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after they have grown up and left home.
Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul’s advice is part of the “Household Code” – the rules for members of the Christian family. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and sharing for the growth of the family. In a truly holy family all members are respected, cherished, nurtured, and supported, united through the bond of love. Today’s Gospel describes how Joseph and Mary cooperated together to protect the Child Jesus from the sword of King Herod by escaping to Egypt, to further elucidate the roles parents are to play on their children. They are their first major school in life and just like Joseph and Mary protected and guided Jesus from been killed by Herod, parents should protect their children from hazards that may affect their social, spiritual, physical, psychological and academic wellbeing and growth. Proverbs 22:6 says train up the child the way he should grow, so that when he grows old, he will not depart from it.
What Made the Family Holy?
The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church this weekend as a model for our families. We call them “The Holy Family” because God is now part and parcel of the family. Jesus is God and God is holy, so everything about him is holy. Similarly, families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice and peace. The first gift that Jesus gives is peace. Like the post resurrection event of John 20 :21. This happens when mutual understanding, support and respect happen in the family. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that each family is called to holiness. This happens when they make Jesus part and parcel of the family and when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass.
The Holy Family as Exemplar for Obedience and Total Faith in God
Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, is presented as a man of unwavering obedience, eager to consult God in fervent prayer and to learn His will through “dreams”. Joseph obeys without complaint. He knows nothing except the next step of the journey, and he takes that step without doubt and complaints once God has spoken. This can also be said of Mary as we can see in the annunciation event. She did not doubt the message of the angel. Similarly, parents are called to live a life of total faith and in full obedience to God. Mary never doubted whatever God has said, their obedience to Gods direction also paved the path for the fulfillment of God promises. Sometimes, we may not see the fullness of God’s plan for our lives or our families only if we obey Gods inspiration. Notwithstanding what they were passing through, Joseph and Mary were astounding in their faith. And God was with them. This is a call for every family to take God as their stronghold, live in full obedience to Him and develop unwavering faith even when everything goes against them. Many families today no longer worship God because of what they are passing through, many do not care about God, many see His directions as waste of time, and many continue to move from one place to place in search of miracles. Always look up to this family.
The Holy Family are Deep Rooted in Prayer
We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations. Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. They presented him in the temple (Luke 2:22) and always go to the temple to fulfill their religious obligations (Luke 2: 41-52). From Jesus, we can also see the glimpse of the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews (Mk 12:29-30). He takes time to pray alone. Jesus fasted. He is also always in the temple or synagogue. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth. Similarly, every family is called to live a life of prayer. When Jesus becomes the foundation, nothing whether spiritual or temporal can pull them down.
The Holy Family as Exemplar for Respect and Togetherness
One sign that is absolutely glaring in the life of the Holy Family is the mutual respect exhibited by them. Joseph did not puff himself up nor show signs that he is the man in charge. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to quietly dismiss her without making a mockery of her and without trying to insult her. Imagine that kind of man. This is very far from what we see today. Respect in the family is reciprocal, the husbands should respect their wives and love them like Joseph did. They have to work together in love and respect. When the child lost in the temple, both of them suffered together, to find the missing child, and when Herod threated to kill Jesus as we see in the gospel, both of them suffered together to escape to Egypt. The burdens of a family are not for the father or mother alone but for the two who are expected to work with one heart and respect. The Blessed Virgin Mary was totally submissive to the husband and never doubted him, whenever he says, the Angel said. This is a call for every woman to respect their husband in mutual love and respect. Both are to respect their matrimonial vows, consent and homes. This shows signs of respect. The child Jesus also was in total obedience to them, a call for every child to respect their parents and do not talk to them as if they are your mates. It is so disheartening that many these days fight their parents. Always look upon the Holy family.
Their Binding Force
When we talk about the Holy Family, it does not mean that they did not have problems. Just as every family has to face problems and overcome them, so also the Holy Family had to carry crosses. We can easily imagine how misunderstood both Mary and Joseph must have been when Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Their story would never be believed. Even Mary herself had it very rough early in the pregnancy when Joseph was planning to divorce her before the angel intervened in a dream. Secondly, remember that the family had to flee to Egypt as refugees because Jesus’ life was in danger due to Herod, like refugees. And other hard experiences. Finally, did you discover that we do not hear of Joseph any more so we presume that before Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee Joseph had died – The Holy Family suffering the greatest pain of all families, the pain of bereavement and separation through death. The saddest moment of all came when Mary watched her son die on the cross. What a painful story. Every family has painful stories.
What kept The Holy Family together throughout all of these trials and crosses? The answer is ‘Love for each other and God’. Joseph’s love for the family, Jesus’ love for Mary and Mary’s love for Jesus, and the love of both of them for God the Father. We can see Jesus’ love for his mother when he was dying on the cross and was worried about leaving her behind so he asked his close friend and disciple John to look after her, saying to Mary, ‘Woman behold your son’, and to John ‘behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27). What holds our families together also in times of difficulty is love and forgiveness
By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues.
I believe that the greatest threat facing families now is simply that we don’t spend enough time together. We are so busy working, or socializing, or watching TV that we have less and less time for each other. What a pity. There is a story about a solicitor who lived a considerable distance from her elderly father. Months had passed since they had been together and when her father called to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him, e.g., court schedule, meetings, new clients, research, etc., etc. At the end of the recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” The daughter’s response was immediate, “Dad, I can’t believe you would ask that! Of course, I will come!” To which the father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come; I need you more now than I will then.” As I said, I believe one of the greatest threats facing families now is simply that we do not spend enough time together. Spending time together with the family is a way of showing our family that we love them. Look upon the Holy family and remember your family today. Biuld your family in God, you will never regret it.