Holy Family (Year C)

Feast of the Holy Family – Based on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp

1 Samuel 1:11, 20-22, 24-28

1 John 3:1-2, 21-24

Luke 2:41-52

Priority of Family Life

 A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says: “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family life.

The gospel shows us Jesus at the age of twelve. That was the age that every Jewish boy was expected to make his bar mitzvah and so become a responsible subject of the law. It was a ceremony of legal adulthood. From then on he was required to keep the law and make the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem like any other Jewish man. One way teenagers celebrate their coming of age is to go out and do those things that the law had hitherto forbidden them to do. You know your boy is growing up when he stops asking where he came from and begins to not tell you where he is going. As we can see, Jesus was no exception. To celebrate his coming of age he attends the Temple Bible class without informing his parents. When his parents catch up with him after two days of searching for him everywhere, all he tells them is, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Even holy families do have their occasional tensions and misunderstandings.

The most puzzling part of the story, however, is the way it ends: “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (v.51). The twelve-year old adult Jesus already knows that his mission is to be in his Father’s house and be about his Father’s business. From the test-run he did in Jerusalem earlier that day, it was clear that he was already capable of doing it very well, because “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47). The puzzle then is this: If Jesus, already at the age of twelve, was ready to begin his public mission, and was evidently well prepared for it, why would he go down with his parents and spend the next eighteen years in the obscurity of a carpenter’s shed only to begin his public ministry at the age of thirty? Were those eighteen years wasted years? Certainly not! In a way that is hard for us to understand, Jesus’ hidden life in Nazareth was as much a part of his earthly mission as his public life. We are reminded that it was at this time that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour” (v.52). And when we reflect on the fact that for every one year of his public life Jesus spent ten years in family life, then we shall begin to understand the importance and priority he gave to family life.

We have two lives, a private or family life and a public or professional one. These two lives should be in harmony but very often they are in tension. Whereas Jesus resolved the tension by giving priority to his private life, we, unfortunately, often try to resolve it by giving priority to our professional life, leaving our family life to suffer. Rose Sands writes about the unhappy man who thought the only way he could prove his love for his family was to work hard. “To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home.” The celebration today of the holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus reminds and challenges us to value and invest in our private life with our families before our professional life at the work place, even when our job is as important as saving the world.

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Feast of the Holy Family – Based on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp

1 Samuel 1:11, 20-22, 24-28

1 John 3:1-2, 21-24

Luke 2:41-52

We Are Family

 A teacher was teaching his Sunday school kids about the importance of the family and things that money cannot buy. “Money can’t buy laughter and it can’t buy love” he told them. To illustrate his point he said, “What would you do if I offered you $1,000 not to love your mother and father?” The whole class fell silent. Finally a small voice queried, “How much would you give me not to love my big sister?” Evidently it is easier to love vertically than to love horizontally. The love between parents and children or grand-parents and grand-children comes more easily to us than the love between siblings. On this feast of the Holy Family, the second reading reminds us of the need to love one another since we are all children of the one family of God.

When we talk of the Holy Family (capitals letters), our mind goes to the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But there is another holy family (small letters), the larger family of God, the family constituted by all who call God their Father, the family of the children of God. The reading starts off by reminding us of the great mystery of God’s love which has made us into real children of God. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). Even though for John the details of our final transformation on the Last Day are not yet clear, two things are clear: (a) we are God’s children now, and (b) on the Last Day, we will become like God. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:3). John establishes the fact that we are God’s children, and therefore, we are family. He is not saying that we should or we will be family in the future. No, he says that we are family now. When we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, we celebrate ourselves as God’s children, for we also are a holy family.

Having established the fact of what we already are, John goes on to point out how we should conduct ourselves in light of whom we are. Being children of God brings with it a twofold responsibility. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 John 3:23). You can describe this twofold responsibility as faith and neighbourly love, or love of God and love of neighbour. As believers we are God’s children. We are family. But we still have the choice to be true or false members of the family of God. True children of God are those who strive to live by the twofold commandment of love of God and love of neighbour. Here again we see the two dimensions, vertical and horizontal.

The vertical dimension, as we said, appears to be the easier one. It is fairly easy to proclaim one’s faith in God and protest one’s love of God in pious hymns and prayers. The test for the authenticity of our faith claims, however, lies in the horizontal dimension: How do we measure in terms of practical love of our neighbour? John will state this principle more clearly in chapter 4 where he says, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).

On this feast of the Holy Family, the Church invites us, through the First Letter of John, to become in practice what we are indeed. We are family, let us live like family. We start by making our natural families into more loving homes. To measure how much you are contributing into making your family a loving home ask yourself how much of the three A’s – Attention, Affection, and Appreciation – you are giving to each and every member of your family. We all need to give, as well as receive, the three A’s in order to love and feel loved. Next to the home, the church should be a family – an extended family – where we give and receive love. Take time today to look to your right or your left and notice a man, woman, teenager or child who could do with a little bit more of attention, affection and appreciation. Sure enough, our neighbour is found outside the home and the church, but if we can start being more loving in the home and the church we would be taking practical steps in living like members of the family of God that we are.

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The Holy Family

by Fr. Jack McArdle

GOSPEL: Luke 2: 41-52

Theme

Today’s gospel is about the loss of Jesus, and how he was found in the Temple. It is a simple story, but there are some beautiful and simple lessons in it. We can strongly identify with Mary and Joseph, because we have all experienced that sense of loss from time to time.

Parable

One of my earliest memories of my mother’s simple piety was to watch her while she searched for something she had lost. St. Anthony was called in straightaway, and, if the object was found, she owed Anthony a few bob! While involving St. Anthony, however, her audible prayer was “Jesus was lost, Jesus was found. Jesus was lost, Jesus was found…..etc.” It was like a mantra, but she was completely convinced that the outcome would be good. (I must confess that, when my own back was to the wall, and I had lost something precious, I just swallowed my pride, and repeated her mantra!).

Teaching

This is a lovely little human story, with profound lessons. Jesus is a personal God. He is actually among us, as real as you or I. I may not be aware of his presence, I may not see any evidence of his presence; I may not hear his voice, or have any sense of personal association with him. I just presume he is somewhere within the community. It may be some consolation to all of us to remind ourselves that Mary and Joseph made that mistake! They presumed he was somewhere in the crowd, and they arrived home before they realised he was not with them. (When a little boy in school was asked what Mary and Joseph did then, with total conviction, he replied “They went down to the Temple and said three Hail Marys to St. Anthony”!).

Today’s gospel lifts the veil a little bit for us. What seemed a very ordinary little lad is found in the Temple discussing profound questions with the experts of the day. One of my earliest memories as a child is a sense of great joy that he was able to put these know-alls in their place! I really don’t see any good reason why this should have happened in the first place. One possibility I can accept is that only God can do God things. Only God can speak God’s word, and reveal his mind. In that case then, it matters little how young or how old the speaker is, because it is God speaking through them. “Out of the mouths of infants thou hast perfected praise.” I certainly don’t think that Jesus was fully aware of his mission yet, no more than I was when I was twelve. I think this would have been a gradual revelation, through his baptism in the Jordan, and his many hours of prayers with the Father on the mountain-side at night.

When Jesus told Mary and Joseph that he had to be about his Father’s business, they didn’t understand what he meant. Immediately, however, he resumed his normal place within the family, and, as a family, they got on with life, like any normal family. We are told that Jesus grew up to be what we would describe as a very likeable young man, ‘beloved of God, and of those who knew him.’ Even on a human level, with the parents he had, it would be difficult to imagine anything else.

Response

It would be a mistake to think that Jesus, or, indeed, Mary and Joseph, really knew who Jesus was, and what his mission was. They were very ordinary people, who were destined for an extraordinary mission. Mary never wrestled with mystery. We are told that ‘she kept these thoughts, and pondered them in her heart.’ Time, in reflection and prayer, would unveil all the mystery. She didn’t claim any inside track with God. She always waited for the Spirit to make the first move.

Later in life, Jesus showed a great zeal about the Temple, and he went there on a regular basis. Tradition has it that Mary would have almost been reared in the Temple. It was a place towards which religious Jews felt a natural gravitation. On the occasion of today’s gospel Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were there for the Passover festival. They seemed to be very strict about all the Jewish traditions, as we see in the stories regarding the Presentation in the Temple, the circumcision, etc. It is interesting to see how Jesus will seek to challenge the authenticity of some of those festivals, at a later date, and how he will clear the Temple of much of its ‘merchantising’, with his whip of cords.

Jesus is a personal God. It is not enough to assume or presume that he is somewhere in the Community. Throughout the gospel, his questions are quite direct and personal “Who do you say that I am? Will you also go away? Do you love me?….” There is a way in which I immerse myself in the community, so that I am deeply aware of his presence. As a Church, we provide the body, and he provides the Spirit. If the Spirit of God is present and active within the community, then, surely, I should have some personal sense of that.

Practical

The most consistent way to deal with the gospels is to see each event as something that is happening now, and to see myself as being every person in it. As a Christian, I travel the road of life with Jesus. Sometimes I lose sight of him, and, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I fail to recognise him. When he walked on water, his apostles thought he was a ghost, and at the tomb, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener. “In this is eternal life, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This was the prayer of Jesus to his Father. He also says “I am the good shepherd; I know mine, and mine know me.”

The mystics and spiritual writers often refer to the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. It is a time of inner darkness, when I have absolutely no sense of God’s presence at all. St. Therese of Lisieux spent long periods in this darkness towards the end of her life. It was her crucifixion, and, like Jesus on the cross, she could cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We can easily get bothered when we lose this sense of God; we blame ourselves, and become troubled with guilt.

The last paragraph of today’s gospel speaks about what we call the ‘Hidden Life’ of Jesus. These were the years up to the age of thirty, before he began his public mission. His life is very ordinary. In fact, when he began to preach and work miracles, those who grew up with him in Nazareth were puzzled, and said “Where did this man get all this power. We have known him and his family, and he’s just one of ours.” Most of our lives are very ordinary and everyday. It is at such times that the Kingdom grows within us. Jesus speaks of the farmer sowing the seed, and then moving away, and letting the earth do the rest. The Kingdom of God is built up by countless tiny acts, most of which are hidden. “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

Story

When I was growing up in the country, there was a man who was classified as being ‘simple’. He was to be found in the front row of church, chapel, Orange hall, or ‘meeting house’. One day he was on the main street of the local town, listening to an evangelist preacher, who addressed all who cared to listen from the back of a truck. He was talking about ‘finding the Lord’. Our friend was at the front of the crowd, and he had his usual vacant grin, which the preacher may have interpreted as some sort of religious trance! Anyhow, as he thumped his bible, he turned to our friend, and asked him “And you, sir, have you found the Lord?” To which our friend replied “Naw. Have ya lost him?”

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Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – Cycle C

 Homily # 1

1 Samuel 1: 20-22, 24-28; 1 John 3: 1-2, 21-24; Luke 2: 41-52

  The last Sunday of the calendar year is a wonderful time to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. It’s a time to reflect on the year just ending – on our successes and failures, our times of joy and sadness – and then look ahead with hope and expectation to the possibilities of the coming year.

What’s really great about this feast day is that it’s about something to which we can readily relate. It’s not theological or doctrinal. It’s about the real stuff that you and I have to deal with every single day of the year, and so when we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we also celebrate our own families.

This week, we’re coming to the end of that grand holiday bash that starts with Thanksgiving and goes non-stop through the New Year. It’s a time of joyful songs and television stories that have happy endings. It’s a time when we want everything to be OK, and sometimes to make it OK, we idealize our families. We try to “wish” them into something they are not. And yet we know that all too often our families fail to live up to the Hallmark image glowing softly in our imaginations. Our families are not perfect, and frankly, most families are a little messy.

Many families have been struck by tragedies this year – some over which they had no control – like the death of a loved one, the pain and anguish of illness, or the lose of a job. Others have experienced tragedies such as separation or divorce, alienation of children, or the almost unbearable pain of infidelity, which were the direct result of someone in the family not doing whatever was necessary to make family work. There’s an old adage that says, “It takes a heap of living to make a house a home.” And it takes every one of us working together to make that group of people related to each other either through blood or marriage, into a family.

One wonders how different these situations could have been if every member of the family had listened to the admonitions of St. Paul in the second reading today. “Clothe” yourselves with kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all, love.” How many of these tragedies could have been avoided if these virtues had been practiced?

Historically, the Church has given us the Holy Family as a model for Christian living. Yet, this model doesn’t work for some of us because we reason, “Jesus was God, Mary was born without original sin, and Joseph had to be a saint to be able to deal with everything thrown at him. How can we possibility be like them?”

We forget that the three of them, including Jesus, were just as human as we are. Theirs was a real family that experienced many of the same challenges each of us experience. At the beginning, there was talk of divorce because of Mary’s pregnancy. Thank goodness, that matter was resolved.

Then there was the housing problem: no room at the inn. We tend to romanticize this setting, but what mother-to-be wants her child born in a stable? Immediately after the baby was born, a new crisis occurred. King Herod regarded Jesus as a threat to his political security and wanted him killed. The Holy Family was forced to flee to a strange land where they were strangers and aliens.

Look at the story in the Gospel today. We’re given a rather bland description of Mary and Joseph’s reaction when they finally find Jesus after searching for him for three days. Luke says, “When his parents saw him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? You see your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow.”

This translation doesn’t even begin to give us a sense of what Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing. How many of you have ever lost track of one of your children at the mall, or a ball game, or some other public event – even just for a split second? I have, and I panicked. I suspect that the kind of feelings and emotions that I experienced are the same kind of feelings and emotions that Mary and Joseph were feeling during those long three days while they were searching for their son. This was a real, human family.

Luke tells us that Jesus “progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” Mary and Joseph, no doubt, had a significant influence on the development of Jesus’ personality traits, his feelings, hopes and aspirations by the training and interaction they provided in their home. And so, we can draw from what little we know about this family to guide us in our own lives.

Our celebration today calls us to follow the model of the Holy Family. It calls us to live the principles that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Colossians. It calls us to stop focusing on our own interests and feelings and self-fulfillment, and focus on those who God has given to us as a family.

One of the most pressing needs of our times is for families to deliberately and intentionally strive toward being a holy family. Holy families don’t just happen. They are something we consciously create by every person working together and persisting in tough times.

My brothers and sisters, God gave you your family as a gift and a legacy. You are called to love it, cherish it, and to constantly build it up, even if it is imperfect and messy.


Homily # 2

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Col 3:12-21
Lk 2:41-52

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  Typically, we think in terms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as our holy family, today though I would like to change this a bit and rename this feast as “The Holiness of Families.”  Certainly, our model remains the same but for a little while let’s focus inwardly on our families.

In our nation we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, so why not celebrate the Holiness of Families?  This aspect of family allows us to view each other in a different way.  For example during the past few weeks there have been many references in the news media, both on television and in the paper that emphasis for family celebration has taken on a different dimension.  The closeness of families celebrating coupled with the separation of family members serving our nation in the military, has brought in sharper focus the need that families have to be together.

I am not referring to a secular celebration but rather recognition that family life is a life filled with holiness if we allow for it to happen.  This in itself presents a dilemma.  I refer specifically to some who may feel awkward or ill prepared in recognizing the holiness of their family.  After all they live with them…they see the imperfections.

The other day I was in a long line in the local grocery store.  Directly in front of me was a young dad who was having a difficult time with his precocious daughter.  After telling her no to several demands, she let out a very shrill cry informing him and everyone in the front of the store how displeased she was in not getting her way.

He bent over to try to placate her and as he stood up our eyes met…he immediately offered an explanation, “She just turned two years old…I guess she’s in the terrible twos.”   Without thinking I remarked “Well I have it on good authority that the terrible twos last from 2 to 22…you have a long way to go.”

My comment seemed to be an invitation for conversation.  He mentioned that he spent the entire day after Christmas assembling various gifts that his children received…his parting comment though was particularly revealing; he said, “Thank goodness for the enclosed instructions I’d probably still be working on them…perhaps families should come with instructions too.”

I believe this celebration, unlike any other, does come with instructions.  Actually they come from two different sources; the first is from the readings we just heard and the second from an unlikely venue but one that includes pictures.

Our readings from the Book of Sirach and St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians are filled with directions.  Sirach is a teacher, and he instructs his students on God’s commandment to honor their parents.  He adds this lesson is not limited to honoring them only when it’s convenient; it’s also inclusive when they can no longer take care of themselves.

In Paul’s letter his instructions initially are geared more for the newly baptized but they also talk to us in a fresh and vibrant way.  He tells us; “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also do.”

He invites us to think in terms of living and giving in love, not of receiving.  He urges us to surrender our hearts to that peace which comes from Christ, to dedicate ourselves to thankfulness.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  Paul even extends his instructions into family life by reminding all members of the family to love and respect each other.

His instructions are not simple.  They provide for each member of the family an element of responsibility.  If we take them seriously …if we take them to heart…we realize that we are not alone.  We are blessed by the strength of our families; we are blessed by the faithfulness of our parish community; and we are blessed to have a model of a prayerful family…a Holy Family to pattern our lives.

These are very powerful directions.  And yet I believe we still need to make a connection in our own families.  The most unlikely venue we have at our disposal is something that we all have at our fingertips and are not even aware of the significance it holds.

I am referring to a type of prayer book.  Actually it is one of my favorite forms of prayer and perhaps it will be yours as well.  I would be willing to suggest that everyone here has a variation of this book in your homes…it’s a photo album.

Looking at photographs is a way of seeing family in a completely different aspect.  It is not only enjoyable to relive and remember the people, places and events that are captured for all time, but I also find myself becoming aware of the fact that God is present in these pictures.  God’s presence is with our eyes of faith, but His presence is real nonetheless.  And this same faith tells me God is present with me as well, as I look and reminisce with the photos.

I invite you all to try this approach to prayer…this method of physically seeing the holiness of your family by viewing pictures.

You see this Sunday after Christmas is a celebration of family…it is that irreplaceable element of society that gives life…it nurtures and supports us throughout our life’s journeys.

Families are the first and best places for the love of God to come alive.  Within our families we experience the heights of joy and depths of pain…God is present in the love, acceptance and forgiveness we offer our loved ones in the safety net we call family.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph…in their struggles, fear and anguish recorded in the Gospel…is a model for our own families that the light of God shines in our midst as we confront the same tensions and crisis’ in our lives.

Perhaps one way we can celebrate this Feast of the Holy Family is to understand that – the power to love – is God’s answer to our prayers.


Homily # 3

Jesus Christ began his work of redemption by being born into a simple family.  His presence there sanctified the home.  The Holy Family shows us that any Christian home, in order to be happy, within the happiness that one can find on this earth, should be founded in mutual love, giving, prudence and, above all, love of God.  Only if we follow the example of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, will we gain the strength and wisdom we need to maintain our home afloat.

We are living the Christmas holiday season and in a few days we will begin a New Year.  These days can be an ideal time to ask ourselves: how is my home doing?  Is there peace in it? Understanding? Love? Do we place God above all? Or do we live as if God did not exist?  Many of us know that a home, without love and fear of God, will never work out as it should?

The days between these two great feasts, Christmas and Epiphany, are perfect for meditating on the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Our Lord and the faithful spouse who raised her family with love and knew how to overcome many problems.  We also have our problems.  That is why, in order for us to be able to overcome them with dignity, as she did, we should read about her live and follow her example.  Knowing that she intercedes for us before her Son, Jesus, we should ask her to help us to learn how to live a selfless family life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that parents are the primary educators of their children, teaching them not only about how to live well, but about the most important part of life, about our faith.  We should understand that paternity and maternity do not end when our children are born.  In a family with children, birth is only the beginning.  Afterwards comes the upbringing, the formation of children so that they will become authentic Christians, and to do that they have to be brought up learning the teachings of the Church and experiencing the love of God.  If we bring them up that way, we will be helping them so that during their lives they will have fewer dangers.  The Lord always protects in a special way those children who have been brought up in families that love him and respect his commandments.

Sacred Scripture gives us a message for today’s families. This message is different from the one that society in which we live gives.  Scripture shows us the importance of sanctifying the home every day, ignoring the sacrifices and hardships that might come up.  If the love of Christ is not in our homes, above all of the things that this world has to offer, we could easily fall into the error of thinking that marriage in which everyone looks out for themselves can survive.  Another of the great errors which, unfortunately is popular everywhere today, is the idea that marriage between a woman and a man, lived out in mutual respect, dignity and order, is out of date.  Let us be prudent and form a home following the teachings of Our Lord because society every day is more and more hostile to marriage and to the family.

As Catholics, it is our obligation to defend the family, which is the fruition and continuation of the marriage vows that we made.

Let us ask, in this Holy Mass, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to protect the family because it is in danger.  We all know this is true.  Only mutual love, love of God and acceptance of responsibility can save it, with the help of God, of course.  Let us pray also for all families worldwide, especially for those with serious problems so that the Lord will guide them and help them to resolve their problems in a Christian way.


Homily # 4

1 Samuel 1,20-22.24-28; Psalm 83; 1 John 3,1-2.21-24; Luke 2,41-52

The first reading, from the First Book of Samuel, depicts a family in the period of Israel’s history before David.  Elkanah and his wife Hannah have a son, Samuel, who is born to Hannah after much anguished prayer, for she had been childless for years following her marriage with Elkanah.  (Samuel can be dated to about the middle of the eleventh century B.C.)  Hannah takes the child to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh, which was about 20 miles north of Jerusalem.  (Jerusalem would become the center of Israelite worship only with King David, a generation later.)  There she offers a sacrifice in thanksgiving for the birth of Samuel.  And she dedicates him to the service of the Lord.  The portrait of this Old Testament family so centered on God is, of course, designed as a preparation for the visit of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to the temple when Jesus was twelve years of age.

The responsorial psalm (Psalm 83[84]) is a song of pilgrims going up to the Temple in Jerusalem and praises the Lord as the host in His house giving happiness and forgiveness to all who come up to the house from afar.

The Gospel reading from Luke tells of Jesus as a youngster going up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.  This feast was originally a festival of nomadic shepherds for the well-being of their flocks.  After the liberation of Israel from Egypt the feast took on the meaning of God’s freeing of His people from servitude by “passing over” the houses of the Israelites but not the houses of the Egyptians, where the “Destroyer” entered and killed all the first-born.  This saving act of Israel was preceded by the sacrifice of a lamb by each Israelite family.  This Jewish Feast of the Passover became an anticipation of the Christian Easter:  Christ, the lamb of God, is sacificed and eaten within the framework of the Jewish Passover in order to liberate God’s people.  The 12-year old Jesus remains behind in the Temple in Jerusalem, and it is there that Joseph and Mary find him after a lapse of three days.  (The mention of the “three days” may be intended as an allusion to the Resurrection and to the events of Easter, the Christian Passover.)  Jesus obviously had been a keen student of the Mosaic Law for Him to be able to engage in discussions with teachers of the Law in the Temple and to be able to astound them with His wisdom.  When Joseph and Mary appear He refers to God as His Father.  This statement, in the presence of Joseph, indicates the identity of the real Father of Jesus.  Further, it clearly indicates Jesus’ priorities:  His Father’s “business” is more important even than His filial duties to Joseph and Mary.  He belongs to a higher and different family as well as to the family of Joseph and Mary.

The passage from John speaks about all Christians as children of the Father.   And it places this relationship in the context of the Son and Holy Spirit.

In other words, Christians are really members of two families:   the family of their human father and mother, and the family of their heavenly Father, His Son, and their Holy Spirit.  In the reading from Samuel this membership in a heavenly family is foreshadowed by the granting by God of a son in answer to Hannah’s insistent prayer, and her dedication of him to the exclusive service of God.  In Luke this membership in a heavenly family is expressed by Jesus’ insistence on His Father as His main concern, even though He continues to live in the domestic family of Mary and Joseph.  And in John, this membership in a heavenly family is articulated with great clarity, with mention of Father,Son and Holy Spirit.  John leaves for the future the implications of what this membership in the heavenly family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit means, for just what this entails has not been revealed.   But if, as we know from our own experience, membership in a human family can have such rich rewards, what does membership in the Divine Family have in store for us?


Homily # 5

READINGS:  1ST  I Samuel 1:20-22,24-28; 2ND    I John 3:1-2, 21-24;    3RD    Luke 2:41-52

INTRODUCTION    

What kind of memories do you have coming out of these past holiday celebrations? Hopefully they are happy ones where you and family members experienced the love, warmth and acceptance we all long for in our relationships, especially close ones. Families can be the most nurturing relationships we ever experience. Unfortunately, some of us may not have those kind of happy memories. The holidays can become times of stress and strife. Things said or unsaid, done or not done may bring hurt, discord, even estrangement between family members. Today the Church holds up for us the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the Holy Family.

DEVELOPMENT

The story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph going to Jerusalem is a short yet powerful story of family life with its joys, celebrations, tensions, expectations, and heart aches all rolled up together and covered with a blanket of love.  We don’t hear the dialogue between Mary and Joseph when they are searching frantically for Jesus in the caravan.  Somehow I have to believe it was peppered with words that we would consider less than tranquil.  The gospel writer records Mary’s words to Jesus after finding him “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  Anxiety to say the least when parents lose their only child whom happens to be the Messiah.  And so Jesus “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.” All the tension, anxiety and uncertainty was completely dispelled by the love that all three had for each other.  Jesus was truly marked by God for something special, as Mary and Joseph too had been.  Each member of the Holy Family had their role to play as assigned by God the Father.  Fulfilling that role was not without its tensions and frustrations but the overall blanket of the Father’s love covered them and was embraced by them so they could each in their own way fulfill the Father’s will for them.

APPLICATION

We too are called to be members of God’s Holy Family. Just as Samuel was given to God for life, we  too have become dedicated to God for life as his children through baptism.  John tells us in today’s second reading to recognize the love of the Father for us in being able to be called his children.  It is the Father’s commandment to us as children to “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another.”  Each and every one of us is a member of God’s Holy Family.  We are called to live out our lives as God has planned them just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph did.  We have a choice to live according to the wishes of our Father or to break from our Holy Family and do our own thing.  Just as John says at the end of today’s reading, “the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”  If the Spirit of God is alive and active in our lives, we know that we are united to God’s Holy Family.  It is a family marked by the everyday tensions of life, yes, but it must also be permeated with the love of God the Father each of us has received.

CLOSING

When we leave here and go back to our homes let us keep in mind we are all members of God’s Holy Family, and are called to share the love of the Father we have received with each other.  Even in the midst of the daily tensions and stress and struggles of life.  We are called to live lives as planned by God and not as we would selfishly want.   This is easier said than done in a world of great selfishness, pressure, and uncertainty.  That is why Jesus left us his very Body and Blood to nourish us with his strength, his peace, his love.  As we come forward to receive Communion let us, like Jesus, be obedient to OUR FATHER so we too can “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

PRAISE GOD.   (PAUSE)   PRAISE GOD.    (PAUSE)   PRAISE GOD.

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Word Alive

God’s plan for parents

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

December 25, 2009, 3:38pm

An elementary school teacher was telling her class about statistics which indicate that more twins are being born these days than in the past.

“Why?” asked a little boy.

“Because,” replied a tiny girl, “little children are afraid to come into the world alone.”

* * *

That is a very smart remark. With the threat to obstruct birth by means of abortion and artificial contraceptives, with the prospect of broken families, indeed children fear coming out into the world alone!

* * *

From the beginning God intended that there be a place for parental love, care and affection beginning with infancy when an individual is helpless, a place where he finds warmth and security, where he can make mistakes, where he can grow, where he can be accepted.

In short, God intended a family.

* * *

Two days after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family – that of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Although Son of God, Jesus became a human child; he grew up in a family. Thus did God sanctify the human family.

* * *

The family, as the basic unit of society, ought to be the origin of change in society.

If you cannot find the Christian values of honesty, justice, kindness, charity there, you cannot expect to find these outside. For the family is a microcosm of society.

* * *

Despite their human frailties, parents should constantly strive to show good example.

Once a teener Mike confided to his friend, “My dad really impressed me this morning. While I was eating my breakfast, he walked in with his briefcase, put his arm around me and said, ‘Have a good day at school, Mike.’

* * *

“Then, for some reason, it dawned on me that he didn’t have to be at work till 9:00. It was only 7:45. ‘Dad,’ I said, ‘why do you always leave so early for the office?

You don’t have to be there till 9:00; it takes only ten minutes to get there.’

“My dad said, ‘You’re right, Mike, but I usually try to catch the 8:00 Mass at Holy Trinity on my way to work.’

* * *

“That impressed me. It never occurred to me that he went to Mass on weekday mornings. He never mentioned it to me before.

“Lately I’d not been going to church on Sunday. He never said to me, ‘Look, Mike, I go every day. The least you can do is go on Sunday.’ He never threw that at me.”

* * *

Then Mike smiled and said, “Maybe I should go to Sunday Mass again.” As the saying goes, “Values are caught, not taught.”

If your teen-aged son, for instance, has not been going to church and no amount of counseling works, be patient. Show good example like what the father did in the story.

Today the sacredness and stability of the Filipino family is under grave threat.

* * *

Due to the economic hardship, families are vulnerable to family break-ups and infidelities with the husband, for instance, working abroad or the mother employed as domestic helper in Hong Kong or Italy.

* * *

Among the affluent families, parental presence and supervision are sorely lacking. So absorbed in business and socials, parents have little time for their children.

Parents should always remember their primary task of raising a good Christian family. That is their vocation or God’s plan for them. That is the message of the feast of the Holy Family.

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Editorial

Feast of the Holy Family

December 26, 2009, 7:39pm

Manila Bulletin

The Sunday following Christmas Day is designated by the Church as the Solemnity of the Holy Family. Today, we reflect on the importance of the human family. It is in and through family that love is planted and nourished.

The family is the fist school of sharing and concern for others. No wonder then that God had wanted to enter humanity by way of the family. By doing this, he further gave dignity to the human family. Through the incarnation of the Son of God, He sanctified the human family and made it a “terrestrial” Trinity – a human model of communion and solidarity. This feast is not only about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This feast is also for all Christian families in the world.

The readings today give us a hint on how to model our families on the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The First Reading from the Book of Sirach gives advice to children: Obedience and respect to parents is tantamount to obedience to God. Great blessings await those who obey their father and bring comfort to their mother (Sir. 3:6).

The Gospel narrates the story of the Lost and Finding of Jesus in the temple. After a very long and tiring search for Jesus, Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the temple with the learned and high priests. Mary then told Jesus: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49) Luke’s narration continues: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51)

Jesus became obedient to His father as well as to His parents. We, too, are called to show the same obedience to our earthly parents. By our obedience to our parents, Saint Paul, in the Second Reading, admonishes us to “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another.”

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, let us heed the call for love in our families. This is the path to holiness – the way to true happiness.

A blessed Feast of the Holy Family!

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Word Alive

Strong Family For Healthy Society

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

December 28, 2012, 4:49pm

An elementary school teacher was telling her class about statistics which indicate that more twins are being born these days than in the past.

“Why?” asked a little boy.

“Because,” a tiny girl replied, “little children are afraid to come into the world alone.”

* * *

That is a very smart remark. With the threat to obstruct birth by means of abortion and artificial contraceptives, indeed children fear coming out into the world alone.

From the beginning God intended that there be a place for parental love, care and affection beginning with infancy when an individual is helpless, a place where he finds warmth and security, where he can make mistakes, grow, and be accepted.

Hence, God intended a FAMILY.

* * *

This Sunday, five days after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the HOLY FAMILY,  that of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Although Son of God, Jesus became a human child; he grew up in a family. Thus did God SANCTIFY the human family.

The family, as the basic unit of society, ought to be the origin of change in society.

If you cannot find the Christian values of honesty, justice, kindness, charity there, you cannot expect to find these outside.

* * *

This is what our national leaders should remember in the program of moral regeneration. A strong family leads to a healthy society and vigorous nation.

Despite their human frailties, parents should constantly strive to show good example.

Once a teener Mike confided to his friend,  “My dad really impressed me this morning. While I was eating my breakfast, he walked in with his briefcase, put his arm around me and said, ‘Have a good day at school, Mike.’

* * *

“Then, for some reason, it dawned on me that he didn’t have to be at work till 9:00. It was only 7:45. ‘Dad,’ I said, ‘why do you always leave so early for the office? You don’t have to be there till 9:00; it takes only ten minutes to get there.’

“My dad said, ‘You’re right, Mike, but I usually try to catch the 8:00 Mass at Holy Trinity on my way to work.’

* * *

“That impressed me. It never occurred to me that he went to Mass on weekday mornings. He never mentioned it to me before.

“Lately I’d not been going to church on Sunday. Then Mike smiled and said, “Maybe I should go to Sunday Mass again.” As the saying goes, “Values are caught, not taught.”

* * *

Today the sacredness and stability of the Filipino family is under grave threat. Due to the economic hardship, families are vulnerable to family break-ups and infidelities with the husband, for instance, working in far away Saudi Arabia or the mother employed in Hong Kong or Italy.

* * *

Among the more affluent families, parental presence and supervision are sorely lacking.

Be that as it may, parents should always remember their fundamental, God–given task of raising a good Christian family. That is the most fulfilling obligation and the message of today’s feast.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/387475/strong-family-for-healthy-society#.UN6uvKwm8eU

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See Today’s Readings:  Cycle C

Back to: Holy Family (Year C)

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