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.
Refrain: Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
1) Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; happy 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 magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.
(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. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
As I was preparing this homily, I ran across the following story which I thought was very appropriate to this week's gospel reading. It is Mary's first letter home from Bethlehem. She writes:
- "Zikes! What a year! Joseph forgot to make reservations at the Bethlehem Inn (his carpentry projects aren't the only thing made out of wood!). So they stick us in this stable full of stale hay and stinking animals and guess what??? I go right into labor. And my OB-GYN said: "Go ahead, make the trip." Anyway, we have a new baby boy whom we think is truly special. But it's been a madhouse ever since! First, we can't agree on a name. Joseph likes Emmanuel - I'm holding out for Jesus. Next, all these shepherds stop by to gawk (as if the smell wasn't bad enough). At least those three camel jockeys brought gifts (ever try to exchange myrrh without a receipt?) We can't get a good night's sleep with that stupid star shining through the cracks in the ceiling, and every store in town is sold out of swaddling. Well, got to go! Joseph had another one of his goofy visions so I guess we're off to Egypt. This time, I'll make the reservations!" - All my love, Mary
Now we have to understand that Mary would most certainly never have said these things about Joseph, the shepherds or the Magi. And we know that she would never have said these things if she had been brought up in a loving family, which she most certainly was. And all of this most certainly brings us to consider the question: what are the qualities that exemplify a good family life?
In our first reading today, the writer of the book of Sirach provides some guidelines which are really an expansion on the fourth commandment: honor your father and your mother. 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). This commandment also requires honor, affection and gratitude towards our elders and ancestors (#2199). Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and 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.
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.
So our first experience of family is in our immediate family of father, mother, brothers and sisters. But the qualities of which Paul is speaking apply not only to our immediate family but to the wider family of mankind, our human family. As we mature out of childhood into adulthood, we must apply the values which we have learned in our families to our interactions with others who share our common humanity (and therefore, no unkind thoughts about husbands, shepherds or Magi!). Thus it is that just as we may have learned to care for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the poor in our own families, so we should learn to care for those in need among the wider family of mankind.
But there is still another family to which we belong, the one from which all other families are descended and that is the family of God. We are all God's children and he will care for us just as a human father cares for his human family. This could not be better exemplified than in today's gospel. Last week we heard in Matthew's gospel how Joseph obeyed the will of the Father as revealed to him by an angel in a dream. Because of this dream, he took Mary as his wife. Now once again an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him to flee into Egypt. Then once Herod has died, the angel appears to him once again in a dream and tells him to return to Israel. Finally, in still another dream, he avoids Galilee and settles the family in Nazareth.
As we look around us at the world today, we may come to believe that God is absent, that he is not present among us and has left us to our own devices. However, as this gospel so vividly tells us, God was very actively involved in the lives of the Holy Family. From this we can deduce that he is still present and active in our lives. Perhaps this story may illustrate this better than I ever could.
- Ever since Bobby's father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. But despite the lack of funds, Bobby's three sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother. But here it was Christmas Eve, and he had nothing.
Bobby kicked the snow and walked down the street past all the stores, looking into each decorated window. It was starting to get dark and he reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun's rays reflecting off of something along the curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime. As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when salesperson after salesperson told him that he could not buy anything with only a dime.
He saw a flower shop and went inside. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother's Christmas gift. The shop owner looked at Bobby and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby's shoulder and said to him, "You just wait here and I'll see what I can do for you." As Bobby waited, he looked at the beautiful flowers and, even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers. Soon the shop owner came out and placed twelve long stem, red roses on the counter. They were wrapped with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. The store owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box. "That will be ten cents, young man," the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime. Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this be true? No one else would give him a thing for his dime! Sensing the boy's reluctance, the shop owner added, "I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?" This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, "Merry Christmas, son."
As he returned inside, the shop keeper's wife walked out. "Who were you talking to back there and where are the roses you were fixing?" Staring out the window, he replied, "A strange thing happened to me this morning. While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn't sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway. Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with a dime. When I looked at him, I saw myself, many years ago. I too was a poor boy with no money to buy my mother a Christmas gift. A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars. When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew where that voice had come from, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses." (1)
It is stories such as this one that remind us so vividly that God is indeed active in the world and in our lives, and comes to us in the most mysterious of ways.
On this Feast of the Holy Family, we are reminded that we are called to live lives in community with others, first as a member of our own immediate families, then as a member of the human family, and, most of all, as a member of God's family. And we are expected to uphold the family values of kindness, patience, humility, forgiveness and, most of all, love, as St. Paul has told us and as Christ has shown us in his own life as a member of the Holy Family. And we are called to have faith in the plan of a providential Father for us, and to believe that he will never leave us and will constantly watch over us, just as he watched over and protected the Holy Family. At this time of the year when family is so important to us, may you truly come to appreciate what being "one of the family" means not only in your own life but in the lives of others.
1. Contributed by Joe Parrish. Comments may be sent to him at email@example.com.
(Copyright 2013 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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 members of the Church, God's extended family on earth, may care for the needs of one another, 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 the lonely, the sorrowful and the grieving may find consolation by laying their cares at the feet of the Child Jesus, we pray to the Lord.
That all children may learn and grow in wisdom and grace within the joy of a loving family, we pray to the Lord.
That Jesus may welcome all of the members 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 and for his heavenly Father. Grant us the grace of your Spirit 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.