The Holy Family Year C
Theme of the week: May our families be holy families, filled with forgiveness, respect, gentleness, understanding and love.
When reading the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17, Deut 5:7-21), we must be careful not to just take them at their literal meaning or we risk taking the narrowest interpretation, missing the full meaning of the Commandments. The First Reading is an example of a fuller and more encompassing interpretation of the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16). In the First Reading, we are taught honouring our parents does not just mean obedience to our parents, but we should also lend our parents dignity and respect in their old age. In fact, the term “honour” in verse 4 has been interpreted as “comfort” in some ancient text. As typical of the writings of that male-dominant age, the passage is laden with reference to the father. Interpreting in today’s context, we should extend the same honour and respect to both our parents. Observed faithfully, this commandment is the foundation of a holy family dedicated to the ways of the Lord.
In an extension to the teachings of the First Reading, the Second Reading provides further instructions for building a God-fearing holy family. The passage can be divided into three sections, each with an important message:
- That we should forgive each other just as the Lord forgives us (verse 13). Doing so brings us closer to the Lord.
- That we should do everything in the Lord’s name (verse 17). Doing so reminds us that we are His people.
- Extending the above practices to our family would bring about peace and harmony to the family. It should however be noted that the last section (verse 18-21), while exonerating the virtues of obedience, love and respect, reflects bias of the time, expressing the husband’s dominance over his wife; and parents over their children. A more encompassing interpretation would require each party to treat the other the same way – with respect, gentleness, understanding and love. As Paul teaches in Eph 5:21, “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
It is often said that the family is the smallest church, the church that is closest to our hearts. Inspired by the Scripture text of this week, let us reflect: what kind of church is my family? Is my family a holy family, where every member may experience forgiveness, respect, gentleness, understanding and love?
The Gospel this week presents the only recorded episode of Jesus’ childhood. We see that from a young age, Jesus is acutely aware of who he is and what his mission on earth was: that is, to attend to his Father’s affairs. Also significant in this passage is another example of Mary unquestioning obedience to God. For when the child Jesus said that he must be in his Father’s house (verse 49), the Gospel tells us Mary and Joseph “did not understand what he said to them” (verse 50). Having searched for their boy “in great anxiety” (verse 48) for three days, it would have excusable for Mary and Joseph to be upset at what Jesus said. However, instead of being upset, Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (verse 51) in spite of her not fully understanding what the child Jesus said. The episode laid the foundation for Mary’s yielding of her maternal ties to God’s parentage of Jesus. In years to come, Mary would become more aware of the sacrifice that was required of her. The pinnacle of this sacrifice was her acceptance of her Son’s suffering and death as part of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind.
Let us heed the example of Mary, that while we often do not fully comprehend the will of God, we would treasure what is revealed to us in our hearts. When called to do so, let us be prepared to let our will succumb to God’s. Shalom.