THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [B] (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Luke 2: 22-40
A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship.
On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” and the second is long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards. He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey, revere and show compassion to their father. Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another.
Although more emphasis is given in the first two readings on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. "Like father like son" is an old saying, and very often true. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God and their country, the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman.
By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family.
The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of priesthood and the Sacrament of marriage. Through the Sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife -- as in a confessional -- are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.”
"Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily details which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith. As we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family, let’s pray that our families may grow in the model of that small family of Nazareth.