On this wintry morning from Seattle, I wish all of you a blessed feast of the Holy Family!
First I wish to draw your attention to a letter to couples released today by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. It is a beautiful reflection on the life of faith, love, marriage and family. It is a creative way to recall we are presently celebrating the Year of the Family! You can find the letter on the website of the Holy See here.
The Opening Prayer for today’s Mass requests of God to “graciously grant that we may imitate them (the Holy Family) in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity.”
So what are those virtues of family life?
First and foremost, the Holy Family teaches us by example what it looks like to seek first God’s will, and to help each other to discover and fulfill this most basic aspect of human life. We know from Scripture that God revealed his message to Mary through an angel, and similarly to Joseph through dreams. The Holy Spirit who was at work in each of their lives and especially at work during the Annunciation when Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary was always at work in the life of Jesus, keeping him in close communion with the Father.
Family members do well to prayerfully discern the will of God, and help one another do the same. This suggests and requires familiarity with God’s word in Scripture, personal prayer, silence for meditation, and a close communion with the parish, where we are regularly nourished with the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation – and accompanied and strengthened in faith by other members of the parish.
Supporting each other in the journey of growing in holiness is a noble virtue not only for family life, but parish life and life as a society. Families journey together, and so do we as faith communities and the human family as a whole. Let us journey together, mindful of Christ’s presence, seeking always to walk in friendship with the Lord.
St Paul in his Letter to the Colossians recalls how spouses grow in love by imitating Christ’s self-giving love. True love seeks the good of the other. Here is how St. Paul describes such love:
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 the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The family is the seedbed of all vocations. When families live together in prayerful discernment of God’s will, the church flourishes with all the vocations we need; holy husbands and wives, holy families, consecrated men and women, priests, deacons, dedicated single and young people. This is true for parish life as well. As we come together again we do well to renew relationships and to accompany each other in faith and prayer. When we pray together and share our faith, each member hears the voice of God speaking in the depths of their heart, strengthening them to say “Yes” to God’s plan for their lives.
During these times of epoch change, may we relearn the importance of putting Christ and others first. May we discover the joy of living our faith. Our world and each of us so need to know and live God’s will to find our way to a better world. Surely the Creator of all things, times and peoples knows what it is we are to be doing, and how we are to accomplish it. Let us turn to the Lord who made us and beg for this grace!, Then, let us turn to one another and discover the joy of living in love.