27 December 2020Holy Family

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Holy Family

Feast of the Holy Family - B Cycle - Luke 2:22-40

Two thirds of United States families do not eat their meals together. Of the third who do, 50% are watching TV during the meal. The average child over 8 watches three and a half hours of TV daily, largely because the tired parents use the TV as a babysitter at the end of a long day. (Economic Policy Institute)

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed on the world." When poet WB Yeats penned these lines, he might have been speaking of contemporary family life.

The Feast of the Holy Family is not as old as one might think. Its origins are found only in the seventeenth century. In a Church, whose bloodline runs back two thousand years, three or four centuries are not a long time.

In the first sixteen centuries of our Church, solemn veneration of Mary, her husband, and her Son was a non-event. There was little need to offer the Holy Family as a model, for family life was largely in a healthy condition.

But then came the Industrial Age and the birth of cities. Serious problems appeared on the family horizon. Strategist that she is, the Church looked about for a counterforce. Cleverly she hit upon devotion to the Holy Family. Yet Mary, her husband, and her Son had to wait until 1921 before today's official feast was created. It was then the threesome of Nazareth officially became the First Family of Christendom west and east.

Family life today is a most difficult pursuit. One thinks of divorce, the scourge of alcohol and narcotics, the breakdown of discipline, and all the rest of the unhappy lot.

We should pay attention to St Paul's letter to the Colossians in Asia Minor. Apparently word had reached Paul that Christian families in Colossae were falling apart. And so he notes the qualities that must be in a Christian home.

Sit back and allow Paul's magnificent words to seep into your spirit. "Bear with one another. Forgive one another... Over all these put on love...Christ's peace must reign in your hearts...Be thankful...Wives, cherish your husbands...Husbands, love your wives...Children, obey your parents in everything."

What a home it would be were one to find all the qualities Paul enumerates! They would be Hall of Fame material. People would fight to visit and just hope the family magic would rub off on them and their families. Why not allow it to be your home?

Arthur Tonne illustrates my point with a wonderful tale. George was becoming old and infirm. He had been a bachelor sailor most of his life. His nephew Bill invited him to move in with his family. George gladly accepted. Now Bill, who had never traveled, did so by listening to the many journeys of his uncle.

George noticed there were times that Bill was fed up with family life - arguments with his wife, bills, kids' sickness, etc. He told his uncle more than once, "I wish I was free to roam the world as you did."

One evening over supper, the old sailor told the family of a map of buried treasure in his possession. Bill stored the information away. A year after that, George died. The nephew looked through his few possessions for the map. Sure enough he found an envelope addressed to himself. It was the hoped for map. It took him but a moment to read it. It led to the very house in which he stood. The dead salt was telling him, "Your own home and your own family are your treasure. Don't blow it. Enjoy them."

Some of you may be saying, "Come out of the clouds, padre. How can we relate to the Holy Family? Joseph was a celibate. Mary a virgin. Jesus the Son of God."

We do Mary, Joseph, and Jesus a wrong if we fantasize their lives. Take the Christmas stable for openers. We picture it as something out of a glossy House Beautiful magazine. But be real. Stables are constructed not for families but for livestock. That Christmas stable was crawling with dangerous vermin and foul odors. There were no pampers nor fresh water. Imagine the drafts. Mary and Joseph had to be sick with worry for the Infant's health. And where would the next meal for the Baby come from?

Consider, too, the teen years of Jesus. Most teens believe

they know everything. Can you even speculate how difficult it

had to be to raise one who did?

We celebrate today not the feast of the Perfect Family but the feast of the Holy Family.

Do you still find it difficult to relate with such a family?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Holy Family

Solemnity of the Holy Family: Being a Holy Family

We Americans are a competitive people. We have this drive to always want to be better than someone else. As a result, we spend a lot of energy comparing ourselves, or our situations with those with whom we work, live near, etc. In many ways this is healthy. I want a doctor who does everything she or he can to be better than every other doctor. The same can be applied to every service orientated position, or even to any person we work with or for.

However, we would be wrong if we were to apply this natural competitive attitude to our families. It is neither just nor wise for us to compare our families to our neighbors. Yet, so many of us do this. "I wish my marriage was as happy as theirs. I wish my children got along as well as theirs. I wish our family was as strong as theirs." This is wrong because, first, every family is a unique relationship of singular individuals. It is impossible for two families to be identical. Second, every family has challenges that usually are not apparent to the eye of the envious neighbors.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. In our natural competitive attitude, we are tempted to look at the Holy Family as an ideal we cannot realize in our families. But, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had their share of struggles. The trust which is fundamental to a marriage was challenged by the pregnancy. Joseph was forced to bring Mary to Bethlehem when she was nine months pregnant. He must have felt terrible when they had no choice but to have the child in a stable. Then they had to get up in the middle of the night and escape Herod by moving to a foreign land, Egypt, away from family and traditions. Still, the Holy Family made it through the difficulties of their family life for one reason only: they had great faith. Joseph had faith in the angel of his dreams and treated the pregnant Mary in an honorable way. He had faith that God would help him protect the child, and he moved the family to Egypt. Mary had faith both in the angel and in God's working through Joseph. Jesus, having emptied himself of his divinity, had faith in his parents to care for him. 

The Holy Family conquered their struggles through their faith-life. This must be the primary concern of our families. Sometimes parents wish they had the financial resources of their neighbors to be able to provide more for their children. That is a great ideal, but do not forget, what children really need is a Christian home, not the things that the neighbor’s kids have.

The readings for this Sunday present some aspects of a Christian home. The first reading from Sirach says that children need to respect their parents. At first it refers to young children as it notes that mothers and fathers have their authority from God. Then it refers to older children when it says that children should take care of their parents when they age. Little children learn respect for their parents from the respect they see their parents giving each other and the respect their parents have for their grandparents. I have always believed that the way you treat your parents will be the way your children will treat you. If your relations with your parents are motivated by respect and love, and are evident in your kindness to them, your children will have learned this aspect of Christianity and will treat you the same way as your years mount.

The second reading deals with the relationships within a family. Paul tells the Colossians and us to treat each other with kindness, to be patient with each other, to forgive each other continually, not to let out pride determine what we say and do to each other. He uses the term heartfelt compassion. The way we accept each other comes from deep within our hearts. If we strive to live this way, than as a family we can pray together not just in Church, but in every aspect of our lives. "Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord." 

Paul presents the roles within the families of his epoch. At that time the equality of women was not recognized. In the Roman Empire women were seen as property that needed to be protected by their fathers or their husbands or, if the father died and they were not yet married, their brothers. The respect given to a woman was different from that given to a man. That is why we have the phrase, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands,” closely followed by “Husbands love your wives.” The heart of this reading is that husbands and wives must respect each other. This same line of thought continues with children being told to respect their parents, and parents being told not to nag, to continually find fault, with their children.

A few years ago, one of the finest men I have ever met died of a massive heart attack on Christmas day. One day about ten years before this, he spoke to me about his daughters who were in their early twenties at the time. He said to me, “My girls are really good kids. Yeah, they both made mistakes and had babies before they married, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are both good kids.” Those are the words of a father who would not let anything change his deep respect he had for his children. My thought is that the reason why the girls were such good kids and why they both went on to be good mothers and wives, was because they were treated with respect 

by their father, and mother for that matter, and they returned this with respect and deep love. God bless him and God bless all parents who never let anything diminish their respect for their children. And God bless children who receive and return their parents’ love. That is what Colossians, the second reading is about.

Today’s Gospel is acted out many Sundays right here at St. Ignatius, as well as other parishes. Mary and Joseph went to the Temple holding Jesus. Simeon and Anna made a fuss. So often a couple will come in to the church holding their newborn child. Their joy is indescribable. “Look who we have with us,” they say before they even open their mouths. I make believe I’m surprised; even though I may have seen the expectant Mom every week. I love seeing the babies, and I enjoy making a fuss. And I love seeing the huge change in the parents who present their first child. 

I love seeing how much you love your children. I love the fact that you all are determined to provide the best for your children. Let me remind you, to be the best parents you can be, remain grounded in the Lord. Make prayer a part of your home life. Pray with your children at bedtime and pray for them after they fall asleep. Teach your children respect. Let them witness your respect for them, for each other, and for others and demand that they respect others, including you. Men, if you want to be good fathers, love your wives. Women, if you want to be good mothers, love your husbands.

Some may say, “I can’t do this. I can’t be the mother, the father my children need me to be.” If you ever had that thought, put it out of your mind. You can be all that your children need as long as your love for your children remains the love of Christ, sacrificial love. Then, do your best, and trust God to do the rest.

May all our families be Holy Families.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Holy Family

Seniors & the Pandemic

(December 27, 2020)

Bottom line: Today in our time of pandemic we honor our elderly who place their trust in God. With them we say, "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!" .

Our readings today focus on elderly figures: Abraham, Sarah, Simeon and Anna. This is appropriate because the pandemic has made us more aware of the elderly. Of the deaths, over 80% were older than 65. This contrasts with the 1918-1919 pandemic that disproportionately killed the young. Our pandemic, by and large, spared children and young people - thanks be to God! But that very fact has made us more aware of the needs of our elderly and how much we owe to them.

Let's start with this crucial verse, "Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." Because of his faith, Abraham not only became the father of Isaac, but the father in faith of Jews, Christians and Moslems. 

The Letter to the Hebrews spells out that faith: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance...By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son".

In addition to Abraham and Sarah, our Gospel shows two other elderly people who put their faith in God. The first is Simeon: "righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him". When he held the child Jesus in his arms, he said, "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples". Along with Simeon was a prophetess named Anna: "She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." I've know women like Anna. They are the backbone of our Church. 

St. Luke notes that Anna was 84 years old. Interesting that is the same age as Pope Francis. Say what you might about him, he has tremendous stamina. Back in March he spoke to the people and the world. He used the image of Jesus and the apostles tossed by a stormy sea: "We are in the same boat," he said, "all of us fragile and disoriented." He asked us to focus on Jesus - the only one who can save us from life's storms.

Pope Francis - along with Pope Benedict - joins the ranks of elderly who put their trust in God: Abraham, Sarah, Simeon and Ann. They personify our Psalm: "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!"

Next Sunday we will see some famous seekers: the Magi or Wise Men. They are early astronomers who followed a star and came to adore Jesus. Today in our time of pandemic we honor our elderly who place their trust in God. With them we say, "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!" Amen

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Holy Family
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