27 December 2009
What makes a family holy?
Feast of the Holy Family (C) – 27 December 2009
Readings: 1Sm 1:20-22, 24-28; Ps 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10; 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52
The Sunday right after Christmas Day is celebrated as Holy Family Sunday. Today we honor the family formed by the birth of Christ, the “earthly trinity”: the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
Here's an aside: as a child I had mixed feelings about the Feast of the Holy Family. Because when we get home we are sure to get a second sermon from our father on why and how we should be better children.
Since today we also remember our own family, the question almost begs to be asked: “What makes a family holy?”
The Gospel today narrates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and their losing him in the crowd, and eventually finding him (after three days!) in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and conversing with them. This story, apart from prophesying Jesus’ future ministry, also has a message to tell both parents and children.
1. The parents of Jesus brought him to the temple.
As devout Jews, Joseph and Mary made annual visits to the temple at Jerusalem during Passover. On this annual pilgrimage, they usually brought along their son Jesus from the time they formally presented him to God. The presentation of a newborn son 40 days after his birth is a way of acknowledging that he is God’s gift to them. Conversely, every time the parents brought along their son to the temple -- the place considered by the Jews as the symbol of God’s presence in their midst -- God was also introduced to the child.
Aside from providing for the welfare of their children, it is the responsibility of Christian couples to introduce God to their children by having them baptized, bringing them along to the church, teaching them our prayers and traditions, and witnessing to them what it means to live as Christians, in words and, especially, in deeds.
2. Jesus went with his parents home to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.
Sir 3:3-5 says: “The LORD sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons. He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.”
Children have an obligation to obey their parents, especially when they are young and much in need of guidance. This, of course, also means that parents have the primary duty to be selflessly loving and concerned about their children. Consequently, when the children get older, they will then have the obligation to take care of their parents, at the very least, out of gratitude for the many sacrifices done for their sake by their parents.
Sir 3:12-16 says: “My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not in the fullness of your strength. For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering – it will take lasting root. In time of tribulation it will be recalled to your advantage, like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins. A blasphemer is he who despises his father; accursed of his Creator, he who angers his mother.”
3. A Christmas story…
There was an old widow who has three grown-up sons. All of them were successful in life and loved their mother very much. But their jobs, businesses and many other concerns keep them from being with her as much as they should.
Now Christmas was the time when they would really find ways to be with their mother for a family reunion, together with their wife and children. However, this Christmas they were so busy that not one of them could come home for Christmas. So each of them just decided to gift their mother as lavishly as he could.
The eldest son gave her a new house and lot; the middle son, an expensive new car; and the youngest, a beautiful talking bird to keep her entertained.
The mother was naturally disappointed by the turn of events but still graciously accepted their gifts. However, she has something to say about each of their gifts.
To the eldest she said: “My son, I am old and happy with our old house. Besides I know all our neighbors, and they check on me and occasionally keep me company. So thank you but I cannot simply leave our house and our neighbors.”
To the middle son she said: “My son, I am old and the only places I frequent these days are the church and my doctor's clinicl, which are just nearby. So thank you but I don’t have any need for a new car.”
To the youngest she said: “My son, of all the gifts I received this Christmas yours was the one I like best. The bird you gave me was wonderful… The maid cooked it for noche buena, and it was delicious.”
Brothers and sisters, what makes a family holy?
It is the realization that every family member is a gift from God. Thus, life within the family should be more about caring for each other and building-up each other, and less about getting what each one wants over the others.
To those who have difficult family members or who happen to have a dysfunctional family, remember: You may not be able to choose your family, but you can choose what kind of family member you want to become.
To those gifted with a close-knit loving family, thank God and love each other even more. And remember: Charity begins at home, it means it should not end there.
Even as we pray for own families, let us remember the many families affected by Mayon's eruption and are now huddled in cramped evacuation centers. Let us think of ways on how we can be of greater help to them. Those of us who can may even choose to adopt an evacuee family and welcome them into their homes.
During Christian funerals, when we gather to pray for a loved one who passed away. The liturgy asks us to pray for the deceased family member as our brother or sister, no matter how he or she was related to us. In a way this is to remind us that indeed we only have one Father in heaven and we are all his children.
1 Jn 3, the Second Reading, tells us: “Beloved we are God’s children now… We have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And His commandment is this: we should believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us.”
This is what makes families holy.