The Holy Family December 28, 2008

Genesis 15:1-6; 17:3b-5, 15-16; 21:1-7 Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 Luke 2:22-40
Today in the heart of the Christmas season the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, consisting of Jesus Mary and Joseph. It is a time when we can reflect on the quality of our own family life in the light of the Church’s ‘First Family’. It is neither the size nor the wealth of a family that makes it perfect or blessed. It is the harmony, togetherness, trust, and the sharing of love that makes the family. Joseph and Mary were simple ordinary persons perhaps not with plentiful financial means. They could not even afford to buy a sheep to offer the sacrifice in the Temple at the presentation. Yet in their simplicity and poverty they were together sharing their life and cares with each other in an atmosphere which manifested peace, understanding and the presence of the divine.
The church today places great importance on the Christian family. From history we read that the Coptic Church has been celebrating the feast from the early days and to the west it spread only in the 17th century. The feast was instituted however only in 1921. It is the feast of the Christian families. A Christian family is understood as a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament. It is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit which is strengthened by the spirit of charity, dedication and sacrifice. The family lives in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for each of the members. Human communities are made up of persons with their own rights duties and responsibilities. The fourth command as given in the Bible tells of the necessity to support, respect and honor the elders. The Book of Sirach tells us of the need of respecting the elders particularly our parents. Paul tells the Colossian community of the necessity of respect and support between husband wife and children.
In the Gospel of Mathew we have the reflection of the way in which Joseph took care of Mary and Jesus. For a large part of his life Jesus was part of a family. We always imagine that this must have been an extremely happy family but at the same time they must have had their share of hardships and difficulties. During Jesus’ public life, even though Mary appears a number of times and she witnessed his death on the cross, we do not hear anything about Joseph. Perhaps he was no more and Jesus must have taken care of Mary. It must have been a painful time — as it can be for any family — when Jesus, already about 30 years old, left his family for the work his Father had given him to do. From now on, he would belong to a new family, the family of the world and especially of those who committed to follow his Way, those who heard the Word of God and kept it.
The readings that we have just heard are both in perfect harmony with the Season of Christmas. Both examples teach us to respect and love one another in perfect union. Today’s First Reading tells us that Abraham and Sarah were childless and advanced in age. But, God told Abraham that he would create a nation for him and he will have a son. Abraham believed the Word of God that was fulfilled and his faith made him righteous in the eyes of the Lord. Through the faith of Abraham began the progressive growth of God’s chosen people. The second reading refers to the faith of Abraham and Sarah and they became the example of faith and fidelity to the humanity.
The passage from the Gospel of Luke narrates how Mary and Joseph obeyed God and performed the typical ceremonies in the life of a Jewish family. As the parents of Jesus, the son of God did not give them any privileges. They followed the law like any one else. They present Jesus in the temple and dedicate him to God for the mission he has chosen for him. Here we have the episode of Simeon, the holy person. He was righteous and devout, and was waiting for the messiah. He is now at the Temple to hold baby Jesus in his hand and bless the Lord for the privilege. He also foretells Mary of her sufferings to come in the future, like a sword piercing her heart. Simeon holds the infant in his arms and says: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace…because my eyes have been the salvation.
In this environment of love, faith and hope, Jesus’ parents return to Nazareth with their son. There he continues to grow and mature full of God’s wisdom and God’s grace-filled love. Here the solid foundation is built for his future work. All that Jesus the grown man means to us can surely be traced back to the formative years in the bosom of his two loving parents. They built a beautiful home, the place where they dwelt in happiness. What makes a house into a home and a household into a family is shown by the family of Nazareth in a simple and meaningful way. Its members not only loved God and honoured him but also believed, trusted, loved and respected each other. Even when Joseph suffered much confusion and anxiety about Mary, he treated her with respect and delicacy making it certain that no harm would come to her. In their life they supported each other and shared their joys and sorrows together as we see when Jesus is lost in the Temple. This kind of relationship makes house a home and the household into a family. That is why the Scriptures tell us that Jesus grew in wisdom and grace in the lively family atmosphere. And what is true of Jesus is true of all of us. A happy, nurturing family environment is so important. This tells us that a home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. A Christian family is understood as a community of faith, hope, and charity.
A little boy in family always longed for his Father’s presence. Before he got up he had gone for his work and he would return after he had been in bed. He would give him money just enough and that too through his mother. One day the boy waited for his father and when he met the tired mean he asked: “Dad how much you earn for one hour?” Grudgingly father said $ 30. Then the boy asked for a loan of Rs 10. Then Father got angry and said that he gave enough and why he wanted more. The boy just cried. But later father felt bad and met his son and gave him $ 10, hugged him and asked why he wanted that. The smiled and picked $ 20 from under his pillow and gave it his dad and said “Here is $ 30. Can you spend one hour with me?”

One Response to “The Holy Family December 28, 2008”

  1. Edward Cutinha Says:

    Thank you Father for your Homilies which I have been down loading since the beginning of the current liturgical year.
    In your homily for “The Holy Family” 28 Dec 08 I n oticed that the First and Second Reading stipulated by you are Genesis 15:1-6; 17:3b-5, 15-16; 21:1-7 Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19, respectively. Whereas the readings stipulated by three authentic sources are Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 3 : 3-7, 14-17a, and Col 13 : 12-21, respectively.
    The three authentic sources I am referring to are The Lectionary, The Ordo and the The Sunday Liturgy Papers.
    Now, I am confused. The readings should have been the same in all cases. Then, where have the three sources I am mentiong have gone wrong.
    You clarification will be immensely beneficial to clear the confusion I am now in.
    Thanking you.
    Edward Cutinha

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