Homily for December 28, 2014: The Holy Family: Deacon Steve Whiteman

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

December 28, 2014

Reading 1 sir 3:2-6, 12-14

Responsorial psalm ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Reading 2 col 3:12-17

Gospel lk 2:22-40

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I grew up in a small town in central Illinois and one of my favorite activities as a kid was playing in the park. I liked racing on swings and jungle gym tag but the best thing was riding on the merry-go-round. You may remember doing this or have seen pictures of kids pushing themselves around on these things. We had a big steel one in our park that probably held about 10 kids and could spin at break-neck speeds.

You don’t see them much anymore probably because they weren’t very safe but I learned a lot from playing on that merry go round. I learned about:

  • centripetal force
  • extreme dizziness
  • how much it hurts when you fall off
  • and how important it is to have someone help you get back on

Like most playgrounds, the situation often got competitive and a “king of the hill” game evolved. The bigger kids would push the merry-go-round at dangerous speeds and the smaller kids Would hold on for dear life. The alliances and relationships you developed were critical for staying on the merry-go-round and even more important if you fell off. Running in a circle trying to jump on a spinning merry-go-round is a lot easier if you have a friend to help you get back on.

Some things never change. I have found that riding on the merry-go-round is a good metaphor for my daily life. During this time of year, the holidays can make you feel like the merry-go-round is going way too fast. Even if you try to put on the brakes and slow things down, sometimes you find yourself spinning out of control. The relationships you develop with God and with people around you can make a huge difference in how your ride goes each day.

We don’t always have a choice of the speed of our merry-go-round but we can usually pick the place where we start each day. Keeping God at the center of your merry-go-round provides a peaceful way to begin each day and you hope to meet Him there several times throughout the day in prayer.

Even with the best intentions, disasters and unexpected events can throw you into an orbit that has you hanging on for dear life. Getting back safely to the center can take a lot of effort, especially if you try to do it all by yourself. Building your relationships with God and people around you can help everyone involved.

Some people spend their whole lives on the outer edge spinning at chaotic speeds and struggling to stay on the merry-go-round each day. Some people have been thrown off by the challenges in their life and are looking for someone to help them get back on. We need to lend that helping hand…out of gratitude for the blessings we have and because our faith can grow when we respond to those in need around us.

This weekend we honor the relationship of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Holy Family. Their example of love and sacrifice is the best lesson in relationships we can have.

It’s important to learn from good relationships because the bad examples of relationships in our world today can be overwhelming. Unfortunately it’s very easy for families to get caught in a vicious cycle of unhealthy relationships that can go on for generations.

Children learn very quickly from bad examples. They need to honor their parents but the parents need to lead by example with their relationships and how they navigate the merry-go-round each day.

Children need to learn from their parents how strong relationships with God and family can help prevent life from spiraling out of control.

Establishing traditions of daily prayer, weekly Mass attendance and regular trips to Reconciliation will nurture these relationships. It’s not easy to schedule these things when there are so many activities competing for time on the family calendar and compromise can be a slippery slope. Missing Mass one weekend because of vacation or an out of town event can make it that much easier for it to happen again. Masstimes.org is a great website I’ve used to find local Mass times all over the world when traveling.

Prayer time with the family doesn’t have to be deep and theological every day. Depending on the age of the kids, saying part of a Rosary or reading about a Saint works well. As the kids get older, they can lead the prayers. The most important thing is to set aside a regular time each day when all the distractions are turned off and you can focus on quiet prayer as a family.

Going to Reconciliation as a family may be the most difficult but may have the biggest impact on the kids. It reminds us we are all in need of God’s mercy and it’s important for children to see their parents make this a priority. There are several opportunities each week in parishes in Dubuque and most priests I know would be happy to schedule a special time if necessary.

Teaching these lessons in the “domestic church” inside your home is the most important responsibility a parent has. For those without children at home, we can help other parents by living our own faith example and always with prayer.

The Scripture readings this weekend are a wonderful guide for developing the relationships we need to help each other on the merry-go-round each day:

  • Have compassion, kindness and humility.
  • Be gentle, patient and forgiving.
  • Be thankful, grateful and let the peace of Christ control our hearts.

Simeon and Anna’s example from the Gospel show us that developing a relationship with God needs to be a daily priority. This personal relationship with God is also meant to be shared in loving relationships with others. This starts with our families where the ups and downs of daily life help us to learn together to trust God and how to help each other stay on the merry-go-round throughout our lives.