Sir 3:2-6, 12-14, Col 3:12-21, Lk 2: 22-40 or Lk 2: 22& 39-40
Pope Francis once said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the dining table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table and set it off to the side of the dining hall so the grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day, the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said Pope Francis. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added.
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 long life: Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards. Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness and sharing in the warmth of the family. Today’s Gospel describes how Joseph presented Mary and the Child Jesus in the Temple for the ritual of the mother's purification and the child's "presentation."
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.
The Gospel describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the Child’s “redemption.” The Mosaic Law taught that since every Jewish firstborn male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” (redeem), the child by offering a lamb or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. In addition, every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s anointed one, and in his prayer of blessing he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and the light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, he warned her that her child would be “a sign of contradiction,” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.”
We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations. We know that Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. Both Mary and Joseph were accustomed to receiving the guidance of Heaven’s messengers. From Jesus’ adulthood, we can also glimpse the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews. He prayed spontaneously. He took time to pray alone. Yet, He also prayed with His friends. Jesus fasted and marked the holy days. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth. We know that work was important to Jesus’ family. In adulthood, Jesus was called not just “Joseph’s son,” but “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was skilled in a trade that was highly regarded in his day, and he trained Jesus in the same craft. We can conclude from Jesus’ preaching that Mary was industrious and frugal in keeping a house. It was likely from her example that Jesus drew many of His favorite stories: a woman finding just the right cloth to patch a piece of clothing, a woman setting aside leaven for tomorrow’s baking, a widow searching her house for a lost coin, Hard work, struggling to pay the bills, taking long road trips, praying simple devotions — all of this we learn from the real Gospels.
Life Messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church today, 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.
2) Marriage: a Sacrament of holiness. 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 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.
3) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court 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.”
4) Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today in the streets of big cities, fighting the vagaries of weather, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.
On the Feast of the perfect Family, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: "children are a gift from God to you." Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year.
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.
(Source: Homilies of Fr. Anthony Kadavil)
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