Below, please find the homily for today’s celebration of the Holy Family. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you and your family, as well.
I have thought a lot lately about the greatest need of our human family – our modern society. I am more and more convinced that this great need is for respect – for the human person – for life itself. Which leads to the next question: where is this basic human formation to take place? This answer is obvious; in the family. Thus, our feast day today has great consequence.
The first reading today from the Book of Sirach has a strong instruction which can easily be overlooked. The first line of today’s reading says: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” To no surprise, once again, Sacred Scripture confirms that God is the author of all life, human and divine. God is the designer of the human family. The feast of the Holy Family which is always set within the Christmas season, teaches us that God is not only the Designer of marriage and family life, but with the birth of his Son, he also participates in our human life; individually, within families, within society. In Jesus, God has become a human being. God has entered into the day-to-day life of the human family and human history.
The Psalm (84) of today’s Mass tells us that every household is to be a household of God: Blessed are they who dwell in your house O Lord. When our homes become a dwelling place of God, we are blessed. This is another subtle message of our feast today; our family life is to be a preparation for, indeed a means of entering into God’s family. Knowing this is the goal, it is helpful to allow Scripture to further inform us as to what this dwelling of God is to look like: For instance, Psalm 15 says: “Lord, who may abide in your tent, and dwell on your holy mountain? Whoever walks without fault, who does what is just and speaks the truth from his heart.” (vs 1-2)
Our family values and practices are to prepare us for entering into an eternal Kingdom. The home is the place where we are to live and learn the values that lead to a healthy society. How we live in our family relationships will influence the relationships we form in the broader society. The respect we learn for family members will lead to respect for the members of the broader human family in society.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (6:4) instructs parents regarding their children: “Bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord,” namely, the instruction of the home is to help children learn God’s ways; God’s truths. Today’s readings instruct us in these basic paths of human formation. As already stated, the human family is to be built upon God. The Book of Sirach (3:2-7; 12-14) teaches that the family is built upon honor, reverence, obedience and prayer. The Letter to the Colossians (3:12-21) goes on with the type of human formation that takes place within the family. Within the home we are to practice and grow in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and over all of these we are to practice love.
Love is an instruction all by itself on humility, self-sacrifice, and generosity. Someone recently told me that when he was about to be married, his grandfather told him: “Marriage requires that you give 100% all the time, and expect nothing in return.” That sounds like a life truly built upon and modeled upon God’s love for us. God’s love is unconditional, total and faithful. This is the love that we have been freely given, and are to freely give in return.
St. Paul further instructs in today’s reading from Colossians a few other practices for the Christian home and family. Namely, we are to be grateful, nurturing gratitude to God within our hearts. We are to learn and practice wisdom, which is not afraid to admonish behavior that is not in keeping with God’s truths. The family is called to find its instruction in God’s Word. This Year of Faith calls us to know our faith, and our faith is rooted in Scripture. Mary and Joseph would have read the scriptures often. Our families would do well to have time for reading and further studying God’s Word.
Two other practices are hinged upon God’s Word and its place in family life, namely prayer and worship. Every family benefits from prayer, together and individually. Every family finds strength and offers support in faith to other families through worship in the Church. Worship, celebrating the sacraments strengthens our bond as a human family, and especially helps us see how individually, we are a part of the greater family of God.
St. Paul’s final instruction to us today is that we do all things in the name of Jesus the Lord. In other words, we are to seek at all times to be with Christ. In baptism, we were united to Christ in a unique and concrete fashion. Our very souls now carry through baptism an indelible mark that we belong to Christ. Our life is now his, who surrendered himself to enter into our human family. All things were created in Christ. All things were created for Christ. In Christ we find our full identity, meaning and purpose. (Colossians 1:16 – 19)
Whether we are now raising children, or are planning a family, or have already raised one. Whether we now live with parents or children or live as a single person. We always belong to the family of God. We all are called to live honorably and to help in the human formation of this generation to respect and reverence all human life. The values we have reflected upon this morning are to be taught, practiced and learned in the home so they may contribute to the greater good of society. Our entire life journey is to be a practice of the faith, and continual effort to grow in holiness, for “our education in the Gospel is never finished.” (Pope Paul VI, Nazareth January 5, 1964)
As we gather for this Eucharist, we are united to all believers throughout the world. Christ in the Eucharist unites us to Himself once again, and through our unity in Christ, we are united to our heavenly home. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) Let us never forget that Christ is our destiny, our true home. In Him we find our peace, our joy, our hope and the promise of eternal life. Let all that we do in this life be a preparation for the life yet to come in all its fullness.1