God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. 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 of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.
1) Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. (Refrain:)
2) Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants around your table. (Refrain:)
3) Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
- Philip and Joan Gulley are no different from most of us. Before they had children, they thought they knew exactly how they would handle every situation. They imagined sharing pearls of timeless parental wisdom with their children and guiding them gently along life's paths. But it didn't turn out like that. Philip remembers one Christmas when the Gulley's toddler son, Spencer, became fascinated with the family Nativity set. One day, he dipped one of the figurines in ketchup and proceeded to lick it off. Joan Gulley scolded, "Honey, don't dip the wise man in ketchup". Of all the pearls of parental wisdom Philip and Joan thought they'd be passing on to their children, "Don't dip the wise man in ketchup," wasn't one of them. (1)
On this Sunday when we celebrate the Holy Family, and thus remember all of our families that exemplify the same qualities that the Holy Family demonstrated in their relationships with one another, there is one underlining fact that we need to keep in mind: all of our human relationships get their origin and being from the divine relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. The catechism tells us that “God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority” (#2197). The fourth commandment also requires honor, affection and gratitude towards our elders and ancestors (#2199). Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, the temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, the failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and to individuals (#2200).
It is also important to note that every family is a domestic church, i.e., a community of faith, hope and charity (#2204). The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children, it reflects the Father’s work of creation (#2205). The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. Thus it is that the writer of Sirach amplifies on the duties of children to their parents and the rewards that come from honoring one’s father and mother.
Although his letter was addressed to the Christian community at Colossus, some additional guidance on the qualities of a good family are provided by St. Paul in our second reading. As he tells us, we must clothe ourselves with “kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another...Over all these virtues, put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect...In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another.” We would be hard pressed to find words which should better guide us in how to live together as a family. For it is in family life that we first experience kindness, patience, forgiveness and, most of all, love.
In today’s gospel passage, Joseph demonstrates his love for a family in which the child is not his. This is what one commentator has to say:
- “Women in the ancient Mediterranean world were considered to be lascivious and untrustworthy (read Sirach and Proverbs for illustrations of this concern). A husband never knew for sure whether the child born was actually his. Such uncertainty would weaken the family by making potential heirs suspect, thereby rendering the family treasure vulnerable to theft. So by circumcising and naming a boy as early as eight days after birth, the father made a public proclamation formally accepting this child as his son, no matter what other charges might be made later. “In Luke's Gospel, Joseph does not receive a ‘revelation’ about Jesus and his divine origins, such as he does in Matthew's Gospel. Nevertheless, Joseph demonstrates that he is truly an honorable and just man by seeing to the circumcision and naming of his son in accord with the prescriptions of the Torah. Joseph's honorable behavior solidifies the bonds of his young family. (2)
So love among all of its members is an absolute necessity for any healthy familial relationship. But sometimes the limits of this love are stretched to the breaking point. Consider the following story. The author writes:
- I lay on the floor, furiously kicking my legs and screaming until my throat felt raw--all because my foster mother had asked me to put my toys away. "I hate you," I shrieked. I was six years old and didn't understand why I felt so angry all the time.
I'd been living in foster care since I was two. My real mom couldn't give my five sisters and me the care we needed. Since we didn't have a dad or anyone else to care for us, we were put in different foster homes. I felt lonely and confused. I didn't know how to tell people that I hurt inside. Throwing a tantrum was the only way I knew to express my feelings.
Because I acted up, eventually my current foster mom sent me back to the adoption agency, just as the mom before had. I thought I was the most unlovable girl in the world.
Then I met Kate McCann. I was seven by that time and living with my third foster family when she came to visit. That day, Kate took me to a pumpkin farm. We had fun, but I didn't think I'd see her again. A few days later, a social worker came to the house to say that Kate wanted to adopt me. Then she asked me if I'd mind living with one parent instead of two. "All I want is someone who loves me," I said.
Kate visited the next day. She explained that it would take a year for the adoption to be finalized, but I could move in with her soon. I was excited but afraid, too. Kate and I were total strangers. I wondered if she'd change her mind once she got to know me.
Kate sensed my fear. "I know you've been hurt," she said, hugging me. "I know you're scared. But I promise I'll never send you away. We're a family now."
To my surprise, her eyes were filled with tears. Suddenly I realized that she was as lonely as I was! "Okay... Mom, "I said.
Eventually, I moved in with Mom. We did lots of nice things together and every day, she told me she loved me. But love wasn't enough to heal the hurt inside me. I kept waiting for her to change her mind. I thought, "If I act bad enough, she'll leave me like the others".
So I tried to hurt her before she could hurt me. I picked fights over little things and threw tantrums when I didn't get my way. I slammed doors. If Mom tried to stop me, I'd hit her. But she never lost patience. She'd hug me and say he loved me anyway.
Because I was failing in school when I came to live with her, Mom was very strict about my homework. One day when I was watching TV, she came in and turned it off.
"You can watch it after you finish your homework," she said.
I blew up. I picked up my books and threw them across the room. "I hate you and I don't want to live here anymore!" I screamed.
I waited for her to tell me to start packing. When she didn't, I asked, "Aren't you going to send me back?".
"I don't like the way you're behaving," she said, "but I'll never send you back. We're a family, and families don't give up on each other."
Then it hit me. This mom was different; she wasn't going to get rid of me. She really did love me. And I realized I loved her, too. I cried and hugged her.
In 1985, when Mom formally adopted me, our whole family celebrated at a restaurant. It felt good belonging to someone. But I was still scared. Could a mom really love me forever? My tantrums didn't disappear immediately, but as months passed, they happened less often.
Today I'm 16. I have a 3.4 grade point average, a horse named Dagger's Point, four cats, a dog, six doves and a bullfrog that lives in our backyard pond. And I have a dream: I want to be a veterinarian.
Mom and I like to do things together, like shopping and horseback riding. We smile when people say how much we look alike. They don't believe she's not my real mom.
I'm happier now than I ever imagined I could be. When I'm older, I'd like to get married and have kids, but if that doesn't work out, I'll adopt like Mom did. I'll pick a scared and lonely kid and then never, ever give up on her. I'm so glad Mom didn't give up on me. (3)
This story actually gives us a perfect analogy to the relationship we all have with our heavenly Father: although we may often kick and scream and rebel against the commandments he has given us, He is always ready to forgive us and will always love us.
Whenever I am preparing a couple for marriage, I point out to them that all of the qualities which Paul mentions in our second reading must be present in their relationship or it will never succeed. Most of all, they must be ready to forgive one another and continue to love one another despite each other’s failings. And they must be ready to say those few words that we are all reluctant to say because they leave us vulnerable to being hurt: “I’m sorry” and “I love you”.
In conclusion, whether we live in a traditional family setting, an extended family with children now in their own relationships, or even as just part of the wider Christian community of faith, we cannot do better than to put into practice the words given us by Paul: “Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.” May your new year be filled with love...and loving!
1. From Front Porch Tales by Philip Gulley. (Multnomah Books, Sisters, OR 1997, pp. 83-85)
2. Excerpted from The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, p. 14, copyright 1996 by the Order of St. Benedict. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
3. She Didn't Give Up On Me, copyright 1994 by Sharon Whitley. Excerpted from Woman's World Magazine. Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, pp. 67-70, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
Lord Jesus, you became one like us to share in all of our joys and in all of our sorrows. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you became obedient to Joseph and Mary as an example to us. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you will lead all of your children on to the place where you have gone. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Through the sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord and brother, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. Therefore, as faithful members of the family of God, we bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."
That the leaders of the Church will lovingly care for the members of God's family here on earth, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will do all in their power to bring peace on earth, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the lonely and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, may find consolation by laying their cares at the feet of the Child Jesus, we pray to the Lord.
That all families may imitate the Holy Family in their mutual love and respect for one another, we pray to the Lord.
That our Lord will welcome all of the faithful departed of our families into their eternal home in heaven, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, your Son became one like us to give us an example of obedience and love for his earthly parents as well as for his heavenly Father. Teach us to live lives of love and respect for one another and thus to prove our love for Christ, our brother. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.