Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY: LEARNING FROM JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH

Lk 2: 22-40


TODAY WE CELEBRATE the Feast of the Holy Family, that is, the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The holy family was a Jewish family, and both Jesus and his parents are shown as faithfully carrying out the requirements of the Law. The Gospel today describes a double ceremony: the purification of the mother and the offering of the first-born child to the Lord.

Likewise, in the gospel, we hear of the Holy Family’s encounter with the elderly Simeon and Anna. Simeon had received a promise that he would not die until he had laid eyes on the Messiah. Under the promptings of the Spirit, he enters the Temple just as Mary and Joseph are there with their child. And Mary and Joseph are astounded at what is being said about their child.

However, Simeon goes on to say some hard-sounding words. He says, the Child “is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that is contradicted”. Indeed, the life of Jesus is a sign which points us in the direction of God, but there are many who contradict that sign and go in other directions. We have seen that in people during His public ministry, as well as in our time.

We shall reflect further on the theme of the celebration today. The family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is brought to the fore as a model to imitate. It is called the holy family. In what way we can imitate it?

Firstly, the holy family was a family in which both parents worked hard, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of Jesus so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge and wisdom, but also as a Child of God. With that, we shall also strive to make our own families like that of the holy family. How? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2223) teaches that “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.  They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.  The home is well-suited for education in the virtues.” Thus, every home is a school where children learn Christian virtues from parents, who play the role of a teacher. Indeed, parents are teachers of the faith and of virtues to their children.

Secondly, we have to take note that not everything in the holy family is sweet. The holy family has also encountered some problems. Going back to the gospel passage, Simeon says to Mary: “You yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Mary will not know the meaning of these words for many years to come. She will not be spared from sharing some of the pain which Jesus will endure on the cross. It is all part of that unconditional ‘yes’ which Mary made to angel Gabriel in Nazareth.

What sustained the holy family through all of these trials? The answer is love for each other and for God. We can see Jesus’ love for his mother when he was dying on the cross and gave her into the care of his closest disciple John, with the memorable words, “Woman behold your son,” and to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27).

Thirdly, modern-day families also face some struggles, problems, and difficulties. In rich countries, there’s much talk of crisis in the institution of the family. And it is a serious crisis. The traditional form of the family is being threatened by a new way of seeing a family. In poorer countries, separation of family members has also become a threat. When parents migrate, the children are left behind. Often this has a negative effect on the relationship among family members. But there are also situations where a family is “complete,” but the members do not connect or talk to each other.

How shall we address this problem? We can learn something from the holy family. The holy family is characterized by love for each other. Love is what sustained them. And what holds families together also in times of difficulty is love and forgiveness. However, a major threat facing families nowadays is simply that they don’t spend enough time together. Some children, and parents too, are so busy working or socializing on smartphones and tablets, or busy watching TV that prevents them to talk about important things that has happened in their family.

The holy family survived all its crises through their love for each other and their faith in God. Let us pray in this Mass that the ‘struggling’ families hold together also through love for each other and faith in God. AMEN.


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