Saturday, December 26, 2009

27 December 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

Prayers today: The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. Lk 2:16

Father, help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, …


Father in heaven, creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man. In history’s moment when all was ready, you sent your Son to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world. Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life for ever, we ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Holy Family

"The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the Carpenter's Son, in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work." (— Pope Paul VI at Nazareth, January 5, 1964)

The Holy Family models for us what family life should exemplify. It is a school of virtue for both parents and children. There we find God, and learn how to connect with God and with others. The family is where love is freely given without self-interest. It is where we learn to love, to pray and to practice the gift of charity. Pope John Paul II has said, “The family, more than any other human reality, is the place in which the person is loved for himself and in which he learns to live the sincere gift of self” (Nov. 27, 2002).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (2.41-52)

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you. Why were you searching for me? he asked. Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house? But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”

Sanctifying one’s home
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Today we think of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The long awaited Messiah chose to begin his redemptive work in the midst of a simple and normal family. So the first reality which our Lord sanctified by his presence was a home and family. Nothing extraordinary - except what is narrated in the Infancy Narratives - occurred during these years at Nazareth where our Lord spent the greatest part of his life. Joseph was the head of the family; as such he sustained Jesus and Mary with his work. He it was who received the message to give the child the name Jesus. From him our Lord learnt a trade, a means of making a living. To him Christ would often have shown his admiration and affection. From Mary, Jesus learned manners of speech, perhaps popular sayings full of wisdom which later he would use in his preaching. He watched how she used a little yeast in the dough so as to make it rise. If an item of clothing tore, he watched how she patched it. Years later our Lord would draw the material for his parables from this common everyday knowledge. How pleased must the Father and the entire realm of heaven have been at the sight of the Holy Family at Nazareth! It was all that God had planned for home and family. One thing this tells us is that every little aspect of our ordinary everyday lives can be used for a great and holy purpose. Everything we do should be made holy. Everything we do should be done in such a way that we will be holier as a result. And everything we do should be done in a way that will sanctify others as well. All of this can be done in a perfectly normal household and life. The seemingly ordinary home of Nazareth was very holy. Between Mary and Joseph there was a holy love, a spirit of service, an understanding and desire to provide one another with a happy life. Thus was the family of Jesus made sacred, holy, exemplary, a model of the human virtues, and disposed to fulfil exactly the will of God. The Christian home ought be an imitation of the holy home of Nazareth, a home where God reigns and is at the heart of family love.

Is our home like that? Do we dedicate time and attention to the home and to modelling it on that of Jesus? Is Jesus the very centre of our home? In the family, the parents are the first educators of the faith to their children, by means of their word and by example. This was fulfilled in a most singular manner in the case of the Holy Family. The Holy Family recited with devotion the traditional prayers prayed in every devout Hebrew home. One can imagine the fervour with which the Holy Family recited the psalms, and with what devotion they read the Scriptures. We could ask ourselves, Do I teach my children their prayers, and do I teach them to pray with great devotion? Do my children see a spirit of prayer in the family? Do we pray the Rosary which is the prayerful contemplation of the Gospel and the mystery of Christ? A family united to Christ is a member of his mystical body, and the Church calls it a ‘domestic church’. The Christian family ought be a reflection of the Church itself in being a living testimony to Christ. In the Holy Family, every Christian family has a lofty example. The family is also the basic and most simple form of society. It is the principal school of all the social virtues and social life, for in the family a person exercises obedience, concern for others, a sense of responsibility, understanding and help, loving cooperation among different ways of living. So it is that the health of society depends on the health of families. How important then is it that every family have a correct model of family life: this model is the Holy Family. Families were created for the honour and service of God, and so God must be first in our families in everything. The family that thinks that worldly happiness is more important than eternal life with God, is headed for tragedy and disappointment.

In today’s readings, God’s wisdom gives us norms for family life. Each family has a choice: it can follow either the wisdom of God or that of the world, and families broken by following the wrong choice are legion. Families ought reflect on today’s scriptural passages, and pray and discuss and come to a common understanding of family life in Christ. Let us make the resolution to have the Holy Family as our constant model of family life.

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