30 December 2018Holy Family

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Holy Family

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Holy Family
The Feast of the Holy Family: Being a holy family

I hope you all have had beautiful celebrations with your families on Christmas Day. Perhaps, for some, Christmas seems to take a long time coming, and then ends quickly. Well, we don't let this happen in the Catholic Church. Like Garfield hugging the Christmas tree to keep Jon from throwing it out, we hold on to the celebration all the way until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year until January 13th. Our main focus, though, is on the time from Christmas to the Epiphany, which includes today's Feast of the Holy Family, this Tuesday's Solemnity of Mary, and next Sunday's Solemnity of the Epiphany. Still, I think many parents here are breathing a little easier. I'm sure you feel particularly relieved because you felt you had to create Christmas for your family. Looking back at it, you certainly had to do many things, but, in retrospect, your families found joy in what God inspired you to do. This is the Feast of the Holy Family. I think all of us are tempted to think that we can create a holy family.

We can't. Only God can provide the grace for our families to be separate for Him, to be holy. Still, we have to do everything in our power to give His Grace the opportunity to flow into our homes. That is where today's first two readings are pointing us. Mothers and Fathers are to be respected by their children. Husbands and wives are to respect each other. Parents cannot allow their children to speak to them in a disrespectful way. This is not for the parents' sake, but for the good of the children. Respect is not integral to human nature. Respect, like gratitude, has to be taught by parents and learned by children. I'm sure that on Christmas you said many times to your children after they received a gift, "And what do you say?" I've met many adults who take the generosity of others for granted. Perhaps, they were never taught to say, "Thank you," when they were children.

In the same way, parents need to teach their children respect. If children do not learn how to respect their parents, how are they going to learn to respect anyone in authority? And how are children going to learn respect if they don't witness the respect that their mothers and fathers have for each other? By treating each other with respect, husbands and wives are building the foundation upon which a holy home can be built, a place where a holy family can live. A holy family has to provide opportunities for the children to develop their relationship with God. I'm sure all of you say grace before meals. This might seem to be an ordinary practice, but it is not. It is extraordinary. It opens the children to recognize that all good things come from God.

Bedtime prayers are also very important. Through these prayers the children develop their personal relationship with God. They learn to talk to God, to pray for their families and for all who need their prayers. By the way, when the children reach six or seven, it's a great idea for parents to incorporate an act of contrition into their little children's bedtime prayers. This helps them learn to take responsibility for their actions as they ask forgiveness for anything they have done wrong during the day. And if a child can't think of anything they did wrong, I'm sure Mom or Dad can offer a few suggestions. Sometimes people look at this Feast of the Holy Family and say, "Well, this is unrealistic. How can we possibly be parents as good as St. Mary, the Immaculately Conceived One, and St. Joseph, the direct descendent of King David, chosen by God to be the foster father of the Lord?" Well, look at today's Gospel. Even the best of parents make mistakes.

They left their kid in Jerusalem, violating one of Msgr. Joe's rules: You must go home with as many children as your brought. And they only had one. Jesus himself sort of scolded them when he asked them why they didn't start looking for Him in the Temple, His Father's house. Sometimes a little child will complain, "You're the meanest Mommy or Daddy in the world." Usually, that is a good sign that Mommy and Daddy are more concerned with caring for their child then in preserving the child's affection by letting the child do something that could be detrimental. My favorite experience in this regard comes from many years ago in another parish.

At a Teen sharing based on the Fourth Commandment, a number of the Teens were complaining that their parents rules were too strict. Then one Teen said, "I don't have any rules. I can come home as late as I want, even on school nights. My parents never look at my grades; so I don't have to worry about their reaction to a bad grade." Then the Teen started crying, "Why don't my parents love me?" Sometimes Pre-Teens and Teens might complain to me about something their mother or father said or did. My response to them is: But are they trying their best? If you want your parents to realize that you are trying your best in the things you do, why don't you respect them for trying their best? For example, maybe you have problems with math, have done all your homework, done extra credit, and have even worked with some of the better math students in the class to understand a lesson.

Yet, you still get a bad grade. You want your parents to realize that you are trying. Well, it is the same thing for your parents. It is more important that you realize that your Mom and Dad have your best interests in mind, then they succeed in being perfect parents. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. When parents bring their babies for baptism, they take upon themselves the huge responsibility of raising their child for God. This is what you do, Moms and Dads. You are in the business of raising children for God. To do this, your home must be a little church. For this to happen your family must be holy. You cannot create a holy family. But God can. Find ways, perhaps new ways, to open your family to the Grace of God. Today we pray that all our families might be holy families.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Holy Family
Where We Belong (December 30, 2018)

Bottom line: The best thing you and I can do for our families is to bring them in prayer to Jesus. Ultimately we belong with him in the Father's house. We live in a divided country, but earlier this month something happened that brought us together: the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. Democrats as well as Republicans expressed gratitude for his years of public service. Still there was something even more than public service that people valued: President Bush's love for his wife and family. Even if we come from broken, dysfunctional families, deep down we recognize that we are made for family. Family is the school of love - the place we learn that vital virtue: patience. By way of contrast it's relatively easy to love friends.

After we choose our friends. Regarding family, we simply find ourselves thrown into a mix: father, mother, older sister, younger brother, dog and cat - then later sister-in-law, nephew and for lucky ones - grandchild. This yearning for family is expressed in one of the most popular films ever made. I mentioned it on Christmas Eve: Lord of the Rings. One of the reasons people cherish Lord of the Rings is because of the Fellowship, that diverse group: 4 hobbits, two men, a dwarf, an elf and Gandalf in front - the wizard with his staff. The Fellowship brings together people who would normally keep their distance. It's a odd family. We desire family, we long for family yet there's something more important than family. Jesus brings it home dramatically in today's Gospel.

After the Feast of Passover, when he is 12 years old, Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem. This causes his parents "great anxiety" as they search three days. With Mary we can ask, "Why have you done this?" His response sounds uncomfortably like a modern adolescent: "Why were you looking for me?" Didn't you know...?" However, rather than read this like 21st century Americans, we have to put ourselves back in 1st century Palestine. If family is important to us, it was supreme for them. So much so it could become an idol. We know Jesus would later say shocking things like "If anyone comes after me without hating father and mother...he cannot be my disciple." Today, rather than apologizing to Mary and Joseph, he says, "I must be in my Father's house." Yes, Jesus belongs to Mary and Joseph, but first he belongs to God. So do we all. For sure we belong to each other as families, members of a parish or a nation - but in the final analysis, we belong to God.

With Jesus we belong in the Father's House. To acknowledge that one's child belongs to God is not easy. We have the example of Hannah. She and her husband longed for a child, prayed for a child. Her husband tried to comfort her by saying, "Am I not more to you than ten sons?" The Bible doesn't record her answer, but we know she kept praying and God heard her prayer.She conceived a son whom she named Samuel. You can imagine their joy. They might have clung to that child with all their might. But they didn't. As was the practice in those days, Hannah nursed her child for three years. Today's Old Testament reading tells what happened next. She takes Samuel to the Temple in Shiloh and dedicated the boy to the Lord. So began Samuel'a apprenticeship to become the last of the Judges - and the one who would anoint King David. Hannah is a popular name today.

Well, she is one of the most valiant women of the Bible. We want to now follow the example of Hannah and make a dedication to the Lord. We will do it by consecrating our families to the Holy Family. Our Knights of Columbus have made available prayer cards for this act of consecration. I will ask you to join me in saying it at the conclusion of the prayers of the faithful. I encourage you take the card home and gather your family for this consecration. You could do it around your dining table - or in front of a crucifix or a sacred image.

What if your children are grown? Maybe they have children of their own. Maybe they are in the middle of some difficulty or have drifted from the faith - or even rejected the faith outright. It's never too late to make an act of consecration - like Hannah to entrust your child to the Lord. Say the prayer of consecration with your spouse - or if you are alone, come to the chapel or to a prayer corner in your home. The best thing you and I can do for our families is to bring them in prayer to Jesus. Ultimately we belong with him in the Father's house. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Holy Family

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Holy Family
Feast of the Holy Family

Today in our Gospel reading we hear a lovely story from the hidden life of Jesus as a boy. It is about his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve years old, how he got lost on the return journey and how his parents eventually found him discussing the scriptures with the doctors in the Temple. This is an example of the kind of literature we call 'seeing the man in the boy'. Through this story about the boy Jesus we get an insight into the kind of man he was eventually going to turn out to be. We observe from his discussions in the Temple at such a young age that Jesus is destined to become a great teacher of his people and an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a very human story and one that we can all easily identify with. It is even a bit embarrassing for Mary and Joseph who failed to notice that Jesus was missing from the caravan.

We can understand their deep anxiety at not finding him for three days. This is something that every parent dreads, hearing as we do from time to time on the news about missing children and their sometimes extremely gruesome fate. I suppose that in those days Palestine was a more trusting place than the huge cities of today. Nowadays we have to be constantly on our guard against disturbed and dangerous persons and we need strong locks on our doors and even at great inconvenience we drive our children everywhere to avoid them walking on their own in the streets. But in those days Palestine had a relatively small population living mostly in rural areas and it was probably much safer. The population of Jerusalem, its largest city, is estimated by some at only about 40,000 people which would make it the size of a reasonable sized town in Britain today, Inverness for example.

Nevertheless, Mary and Joseph would have been desperately worried. Besides their natural concern for the son they deeply loved you have also to take into account their awareness of the fact that God had entrusted this child to them born to be the Saviour of the World. That's a pretty awesome responsibility and whether they said anything about it or not they must have been deeply anxious. The boy Jesus is, of course, quite unconcerned. He is in the most natural place of all, in the Temple of Jerusalem. As the Son of God he would surely regard the Temple as his true home on earth. And what is he doing? He is discussing the scriptures with the Doctors of the Law and, at his young age, showing remarkable insight and wisdom; so much so that he astounded them all with his intelligence and perception. Prodigy or not, his parents scold him for the anxiety he caused them. Of course, the precocious child tells them that they should have known he was about his father's business.

But he submits to their authority and meekly returns home to live his life with them in Nazareth where he was to grow into maturity as an adult. So although our tendency is to think of the Holy Family as some sort of idealised family unit we must realise that its members faced the same pressures as we do. They went through the same crises and had the same worries as we ourselves. This story of a lost child helps us to realise that their family was not so different from our own family. As we celebrate this beautiful feast we must ask ourselves about our own family groupings. We must ask ourselves if we as individuals are pulling our weight in the family or whether we are expecting others to take up the slack. Sometimes we are not very good at showing affection to each other. Frequently we let our tempers get out of hand. Often enough we find ourselves giving in to selfishness and failing to treat the members of our own families with the respect that we should. It is good that this Feast of the Holy Family comes right after Christmas which is, after all, the most family oriented feast of all.

We give presents and gifts at Christmas but perhaps it is only on this Feast of the Holy Family that we come to realise that there are many other things that we fail to give to our loved ones. So often in the family we want the other members to understand our moods and give us a bit of slack from time to time. Yet we fail to do this very thing ourselves. We frequently neglect to appreciate the mood swings that others experience, we often take them for granted and don't make any allowances for their feelings and difficulties. Maybe what we all need is to show a bit more patience, a bit more forgiveness, a bit more understanding. If we do these things then our homes will become warmer and friendlier and more nourishing for us all. The Church throughout its history has constantly proclaimed the value of the family as the basic unit of our society. It promotes, perhaps today more than ever, the need for united traditional families. In these days of family splits and breakdowns it remains ever more vital to uphold the values of family life. However, we should not take its defence of the traditional family to think that the Church looks down on people belonging to families which have split up and reconfigured in unorthodox ways.

This would be an error because the Church values each human person and defends all families whatever their circumstances or however they are formed. The basic family bond is a bond of love and the Church promotes love above everything else. The Holy Family themselves could hardly be described as fitting the mould of a traditional family. So those whose families which don't meet traditional expectations should not worry overmuch.

The Church speaks up for the family and it is right that it does so. It proclaims the traditional values of love and honour and respect around which our families can build their lives. The Church believes that a strong upbringing in a good family is the best thing that can provide a sound basis for a solid and honourable adulthood. So let us hope and pray that our society does what it can to uphold the values that will enable families to truly flourish in the modern world.

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