The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Reading 1 SIR 3:2-6, 12-14
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Homily for Nativity on The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph 12/29/2019
With our celebration of the Holy Family, we have cause to reflect on our families and the role they have in the faith. The Catholic Church calls the family the domestic church, meaning that is really where the faith begins and is often where our faith is lived out.
The domestic church, the family, has a clear structure. We heard in Sirach, “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.” In these roles, they act as the Priests of their domestic church, we might consider them the Pastor and Associate Pastor guiding their little flock.
In that second reading from Paul we heard three challenging sentences: “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.”
Now, I know some ladies are tempted to be upset at this first line, “be subordinate to your husbands.” Sometimes that word subordinate is translated as submissive, which sounds even worse to our ears, unless of course you are a husband.
But let’s briefly look at that word, the more inflammatory one, submissive has two parts, sub means under, missive means mission. This means that we are on a mission, but specifically the husband is leading that mission, that mission to get his wife to heaven, to get his children to heaven.
For the husband's part, his role is to love his wife. In this particular reading today, Paul kind of glosses over this, like the Colossians know exactly what he is talking about.
But in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul goes into a lot more detail, and he brings up love again saying, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her...”
How did Christ love his Church? Well, He died for her. So, lest any of you husbands out there are still elbowing your wife to listen, it’s the wife’s turn to elbow the guys.
The husband has to die to himself, he has to die to his own selfish desires, for the good of his wife, for the good of their children too, but ultimately for her, to sanctify her, to help her to grow in holiness and get to heaven. The guys have it way worse, in my opinion.
Our families help us to get to heaven. Just as a Pastor is working for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him in the church, so are the parents working for the salvation of the souls of their children in the domestic church.
Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.” When a child tells me they do not obey their parents, I have a tendency to remind them that it isn’t because their parents hate them that they ask them to do things, chores and tasks around the house.
It is actually because they love them. Parents love their children and ask them to do chores and tasks in order to teach them lessons of responsibility, discipline, and hard work. They want them to grow up to be happy and healthy, and most importantly holy.
The primary goal of the family who lives the Christian Life is to grow in unconditional love. Paul goes through a list of virtues we should strive for, “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” and then says, “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
Unconditional Love means that we love without placing conditions on the other person. Often our culture, our society says, “I’ll love you if you do this.” or “I love you because you do that.”
But God says “I love you.” Not I love you if. Not I love you because. I love you, period.
This is the kind of love that families should demonstrate to one another, and by doing so, especially by parents demonstrating this kind of unconditional love to their children, children can and should learn the kind of love that God has for them.
One of the biggest things necessary to do that is forgiveness. Paul says we should be “bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”
Forgiveness is an essential part of unconditional love, because it proves that whatever someone might do or not do which causes us to be frustrated, we still love them, we forgive them and move on. Just as the Lord has forgiven us, so we are called to forgive as well.
And I’ve always found it interesting that the Church helps us to do that, at least they give us an opportunity to do that during Mass, at the sign of peace, every week, we are asked to offer the sign of peace, and who do we do offer our peace to?
Our families first usually right? It’s the same people we offer peace to, week in and week out, because our families are the ones we are most likely to offend.
Paul says, “let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” Do you realize if every family had peace in it how much more peaceful the world would be? Many people pray for world peace, but seriously, I don’t pray for world peace, I pray for peace within our families.
Peace in the world starts with peace in the family.
The peace that we have flows from our lived relationship with Christ. It is the peace of knowing that we are loved, unconditionally, by both God and our family. It is forgiveness that we can receive from both God and our family.
So after we receive Jesus in the Eucharist here at Mass, that's a great time to pray for peace with our lives and within our families.
Pray for the grace to forgive.
Pray that we would love unconditionally at all times.
Pray that the peace of Christ would control our hearts.
Now I know families are messy and there are a lot of difficult situations these days, but ideally our families would flourish from a place of unconditional love, forgiveness and peace, and I honestly don’t think these things are too much to strive for.
We don’t have to be the Holy Family, we just have to strive each day to be a holier family.
Every New Years, most everyone makes resolutions for themselves. My challenge for everyone in 2020 is to make a serious committed resolution which will help their family grow in holiness to get to heaven.
If you don’t have a family that you are close to, physically or mentally, my challenge is to still pray for love, forgiveness and peace within your family and within those families you know.
If you do have a family, my challenge is to identify some ways to help lead your little flock.
It might be as simple as offering someone loving forgiveness in an attempt to bring peace, every day.
It might be more intentional at meals, putting the phone away, talking about what we are thankful for, sharing our faith as we break bread together.
It might be to come regularly to the kid friendly holy hour on Friday night, our next one is on January 3rd at 5:30pm, it’s literally designed for whole families to attend together.
Another option is to come regularly to Date Night, our first one is on Sunday, January 12 at 5pm, and my own parents will be the speakers that evening.
Family life can be challenging, and in many ways the family is under attack today, but please know of my prayers and my desire as your Pastor to support families however I can to grow in holiness on this, our collective mission towards Heaven.