Our Christmas celebrations are about family. The readings today echo that. First we have God’s third commandment: “honor your Father and your Mother”. Then Paul gives parents and children sound advice, to practice mutual love, gentleness and respect. The Gospel gives us the model in this, the Holy Family. Lets confess ways we fail at Christmas to nurture family unity..
Last Christmas abused children and battered wives flooded helplines. Violence, loneliness and alcohol-abuse were major factors in these calls. Not a good ad for our family life, or our sense of what matters at Christmas, peace and good will. Given the scale of family breakdown in society, the picture can seem depressing. In this context is there any point in the today’s feast, the feast of the holy family. Certainly not if our image of Jesus Mary and Joseph is of a no-problem family. But nothing could be further from the truth. They were poor. After traveling the long road to Bethlehem, they were shut out of the inn. Jesus was born in a stable. They fled for there lives from Herod, across the desert with scant food and danger everywhere. Then they were refugees in a strange land, threatened, excluded, lonely. Nor is Luke’s account of the teenage Jesus free from the usual rebellion; when Mary & Joseph found him in the temple, he said: “did you not know I must be about my father’s business”. Yet Jesus submitted to them and grew in grace before God and men.
In effect this holy family survived all that the world threw at them and grew in love and togetherness. Jesus lived for 33 years and spent 90% of this seeking out a meagre living with Joseph and Mary in an obscure village in the middle of nowhere. Could God have affirmed the value of close family life more? For if that family had plenty of trials it drew them closer together rather than pushed them apart. That’s the message of the Holy Family feast. It is about the family who hangs in there, prays together, loves each other tenderly, stays together bonded by trials, who work at family life in the deep love of God and each other. For real love is a deep decision to go on loving no matter what.
Sure this is more difficult today, but it is still very doable. A huge number of families are still getting it right by the grace of God, remaining true to Christian principles of deep love, unity, faithfulness and non-violence. Sacrificing the pub and personal ambition to be together. Working for each other & their children in an atmosphere of affection, trust and peace. Its not easy building such a family, but the alternative is unthinkable. Traditional Family life isn’t perfect but its better than any alternative that’s been tried. Without it we risk social disintegration, reversion to irresponsible selfish individualism. The ones who usually suffer most in this are the most precious people in society, the children. They need the love and security of a good father and mother who are together and there for them. They need a nurturing caring home so as to grow up “in age and grace before God and man” as Jesus did. The holy family were real. They stayed together, united by love, through all adversity. No less is expected of Christian parents today. They are to create loving caring homes so that children may grow in age and grace like Christ. For all else is dust but He is lord of faithful enduring love and care forever & ever…amen.
So as God’s people promoting in our homes the unity, mutual respect, love and gentle care that is our Christian calling, let us make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the faithful
For the church, which is the family of God, the true home of all people, that its Holy Father the Pope and all its motherly and fatherly leaders may nurture their large family with the gentle care, respect and infinite love of Christ..
For our civil leaders that promoting the welfare of families may be one of their main concerns, for the greater good of society..
For our young people that they may respect, love and obey their parents in all that’s good, and be faithful to their mother the church, so that they may come to the fullness of age and grace both in this world and the next..
For parents who are doing such a wonderful job in nurturing the children of the future, that God may bless, inspire and keep them faithful in this great work..
For all the sick members of our parish family, that God may bring them comfort and healing. Through our care for them may they know the care of God their Father and Mary their mother..
For the dead, especially those of our own families who are still with us in spirit in the communion of saints, and in our hearts, that through our continuing love, remembrance and prayers for them they may come to the fullness of eternal life..
We ask all these prayers through Christ who spent most of his life in a poor village family, amen.
I read recently a book by Scott Hahn, Rome Sweet Home. He was a presbyterian who became a Catholic. He used to spent 8 hours a day studying the Bible. From these studies he came to conclusion that the Catholic Church was the true one. For it alone had the image of the church as God’s family, and this is the image of the people of God throughout the Bible. The Catholic church with its Holy Father the Pope, its priestly fathers and reverent mothers, and its image of the church as a mother, most fully reflects the caring homely relationship between God and us. Lets appreciate that as we pray to our heavenly Mother..Hail Mary..