The Holy Family Year C
May our families be holy families, filled with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Christmas blessings to all our brothers and sisters! This week, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family is the family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Together, they give us a model of a family living in holiness, with God at its centre. So, we ask ourselves: How closely does my family model the Holy Family? Is my family holy? Is God at its centre? Is my family filled with love, understanding, sacrifice and forgiveness? In truth, many of our Christian families fall short of the ideal.
Many of our Christian families are under stress today. Why is that so? Part of this is due to the pressure of modern living. Our careers, finances and other social activities often interfere with our family life, giving us less and less time to cultivate family relationships founded on God’s love. To counter this immense pressure and competition for our time, we ought to consciously devote more attention and priority to our spiritual well-being, making effort to devote more time to our familial relationships. However, the opposite is true for many of us. So we ask ourselves: Am I devoting less and less attention to spiritual well-being, both as an individual and as a family? Is my spiritual endeavour often limited to an hour of church attendance on a weekend? And perhaps sometimes I do not even do that – as I occasionally sacrifice my Sunday worship for other less spiritual pursuits. And while I am physically in church, is my mind focused on God, on my worship, on His teachings? Or am I just robotically following the rituals of the service? If so, the rituals are without meaning to me, incapable of transforming my life.
The truth is, right from the beginning, God has predestined a holy family as a basic building block of a holy society. After God created Adam, he decreed, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Gen 2:18) He created Eve and commanded the couple to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Yes, my brothers and sisters, our families are predestined by God to be fruitful. However, fruitfulness must not be interpreted as just being physically reproductive. This is a very narrow interpretation. Fruitfulness means to bear fruits, not just in a reproductive sense. As members of my family, I must bear spiritual fruits in and through my family. In this way, even a childless couple can have the most fruitful of families. As St Paul said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23) My brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves: is my relationship with the loved ones bearing these fruits? Am I loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, generous, faithful, gentle and full of self-control? Extending on this teaching, St Paul urges us in the Second Reading this week, to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (verse 12) For ultimately, these qualities are manifestations of God’s love. We are to clothe ourselves “with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (verse 14). Think about it, how many of us experience difficult relationships in our families because of unforgiveness? Forgiveness is sometimes not easy. Yet with God’s love in the centre of our holy family, it is not hard to find forgiveness in our hearts, for it is by His love that God forgives us. As St Paul teaches us in the Second Reading, “forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (verse 13)
My dear friends, love always flows both ways. A truly loving relationship is one that is reciprocated. In the family, this starts with the father and mother. St Paul continues in the Second Reading, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” (verse 18-19) As the head of the family, parents set the example and the tone for all other familial relationships, starting with the parent-child relationship: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.” (verse 20-21) Sadly, many families today are not living up to this ideal. As the sins of anger, lust, pride lay claim to the parental relationship, the sins permeated to all other relationships in the family. So much so that, whereas it was inconceivable only a few decades ago, today, divorce is common place in our modern society. And that is not all. Driven by non-spiritial priorities, some children find caring for their aging and sick parents too much of a burden. So, whereas it was inconceivable only a few decades ago, today, euthanasia is legal in many countries. We need to take heed of what the prophet Ben Sirach wrote in the First Reading this week, “Those who honour their father atone for sins, and those who respect their mother are like those who lay up treasure.” (verse 3-4) “My child, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if his mind fails, be patient with him; because you have all your faculties do not despise him.” (verse 12-13)
Finally, as parents, we need to remember that our children do not belong to us. They belong to God. We must therefore not allow ourselves to become stumbling blocks to our children’s answering of God’s call. What is God calling my child to be? How is my child called by God to serve humanity and society? The Gospel this week tells the story of Mary and Joseph finding the child Jesus in the temple. When they found him, Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (verse 46-47) Mary asked Him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (verse 48) Understandingly, having lost the child for a day, Mary and Joseph were worried. But Jesus said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49). Once she overcome her worry, Mary understood. She loves Jesus but she understood she was but a custodian of her child. Her child was not for her to keep. Mary understood that her motherly role was to nurtured her child, in readiness for the calling of God. Hence, when her child said He must be in His Fathers house, Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.” (verse 51) As parents, we need to model our parenthood to that of Mary.
My brothers and sisters, let us model our families to the Holy Family, filled with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Let us pray often as a family. No, I do not mean just following some rituals blindly, but really connects with God through our prayers, rituals or not. Let us heed the advice of St Paul in the Second Reading, and pray “with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (verse 16) And most importantly, whether in our victories or in our struggles, never cease to give thanks: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (verse 17)
May God bless our families this Christmas. Amen.