Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 26, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-21 / Lk 2:41-52
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
On the first Sunday after Christmas, the Church always celebrates the Feast of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They are the number one model of a family that follows God’s will. That’s why this Sunday’s reading features three essential elements of a Christian or sacred family.
First, for a family to be sacred, its members must bring God into their lives. We have heard in the gospel that, during the time of Jesus, religious activities such as the feast of the Passover were a way for people to express their great need for God. The family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, like the typical family in Israel, would go to the synagogue to pray and worship God. They would do it regularly together. They understood that, without God, they could do nothing.
Pope Francis once said, “How precious is the family as a privileged place for transmitting the faith.” It is a great obligation of parents to teach their children, especially in matters relating to God. That is why it is very important for parents to bring their children to the Church, and closer to God. If your children grow up to be good Catholic Christians, it is automatic that they become good citizens. But it does not always follow that a good citizen will also be a good Catholic Christian.
Not everything legal is moral; that’s the difference. There are things that are legal, but they are against our conscience, and against the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I think you already know some examples: abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage. These are legal things, and they are approved by the government. But yet, they are immoral. They are against God’s law. That’s why it is very important for parents to bring their children closer to God.
So now the question for parents is: Do you bring your children closer to God? Parents are the first preachers, the first catechists to their children. They are the ones who deserve to take the lead in prayer at home and in worship every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Their kind words and deeds help explain to the children how loving God is.
Second, for the family to be sacred, its members need to respect, love, and understand each other. St. Paul says, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.” Husbands are the head of the family, but they are to preside, not in domination, but in service. He continued to say, in his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church.” So, the model for husbands loving their wives is Christ loving the Church. How did Christ love the Church? Just as Christ dedicated His life to the church, so husbands also sacrifice their lives to caring for their families.
The love and respect that a couple gives to each other is invaluable to the good growth of the children. Often, children who grow up in a peaceful and loving family become good people and succeed in their lives, while those who grow up in family turmoil and quarrels are likely to be troubled and unsuccessful.
Eva Burrows said, “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” Loving each other and bringing God to the family will keep the family united. That’s why Fr. Patrick Peyton said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Sometimes it’s not very apparent right away, but people who keep praying together as a family will see the results later on. God will eventually show you the fruits of your efforts in praying as a family.
The father and mother should work together to raise their children. In disciplining, they should avoid hurtful words and abuse of children. In the gospel, Mary and Joseph expressed their concern to Jesus in a reverent way. We heard that in our gospel. “Son, why have your done this to us? Your father and I are very anxious to find you.” Often, wise reasoning will mold good conscience in children.
By honoring parents, children can please God. The first reading says that those who honor their parents will receive a reward and be forgiven of their sins. That’s the blessing that you will receive if you honor your parents. Also, that’s the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother. That commandment did not tell us, “Honor your father and your mother only when they are good to you, or when you like them. If you don’t like them, don’t honor them.” The Scripture did not say that. It only says Honor your father and your mother. They may have some weaknesses or failures, but always remember, the parents’ purpose in reprimanding or chastising is that they want their children to grow up to become better people. If your parents have made some mistakes in raising you, forgive them. Love them. Their purpose is not to hate you, but to love you and help you become a better person.
That’s the command in the Scriptures. Those who honor their parents will receive a reward and be forgiven of their sins. The good care given to the elderly or to the parents will surely remain in God’s memory.
Third, in order for the family to be sacred, members must forgive one another’s mistakes. This is very hard, especially when families have some disagreements. But St. Paul encourages every family to cultivate the qualities of compassion: love, humility, meekness, and patience. They need to be patient and forgive each other. If one is angry with another, then he must follow the example of Jesus in forgiving the erring one.
Forgiveness is very important within the family. It is one of the commandments that Jesus gave on which he puts a condition. He said, “If you do not forgive others of their sins, your sins will not be forgiven.” Our prayers are useless if we don’t forgive others, because our sins will not be forgiven.
I know it’s hard to forgive. Sometimes people do some very hurtful, embarrassing, painful things. The important thing to remember about forgiveness is this: Forgiveness is an act of the will. You may need to make that active decision to forgive the person, even if the heart is not yet ready. Even if the heart is still wounded, just make the act of the will to forgive.
We can control our minds, but we cannot control our hearts. We can tell our minds, “Think like this. Think like you are in heaven. Think like you are up in the clouds.” Your mind can do that. But you cannot tell your heart, “Oh, be joyful, be happy,” if your heart is bleeding. We don’t have control of our hearts, but we have control of our minds. Forgiveness begins when you make an act of the will to forgive the person. Just say, “I forgive you,” even if your heart is not ready. Every time you are haunted by that painful memory, by shameful or hurtful feelings, you have an opportunity to ask the Lord to help you heal that feeling. It doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven the person. Once you bring that to confession, once you tell the person I forgive you, forgiveness and healing start to take place.
Forgiveness is very important, especially in families. Conflict among family members has become a problem in many households today. Work, business, and material things take time from one another. When there is no strong emotional bonding, relationships between family members, spouses, and siblings, can be very problematic. This Feast of the Sacred Family, of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, reminds us that true happiness can only be maintained when there is intimacy and love among its members.
When there is contention in the family, we are called to be the first to extend the hand of reconciliation. Do not wait for the other one to ask for forgiveness, even if you are not the one who has done the wrong thing. Just be the first one to extend the hand of reconciliation. Good relationships with each other are far more important than many things in this world.
Let us also remember what St. Charbel once said, “The family is the basis of the Lord’s plan, and all the forces of evil aim to demolish it.” So, uphold your families and guard them against grudges of the Evil One by the presence of God. Grudges are what the devil uses to destroy families. Even simple things can become very big and ruin the family. You may begin to think, “I can’t forgive the person; it’s too much. What he did to me was too much.” The devil will win if we listen to that anger; if we feed ourselves with anger, so forgive.
Our celebration today calls us to follow the model of the Holy Family. It calls us to live the principles that Paul speaks about in his Letter to the Colossians. It calls us to stop focusing on our own interests and feelings and self-fulfillment, and focus on those whom God has given to us as a family. One of the most pressing needs of our times is for families to deliberately and intentionally strive toward being a Holy Family. Holy Families don’t just happen: They are something we consciously create, by every person working together and persisting, especially in tough times.
God gave us our family as a gift and a legacy. We are called to constantly build it up, cherish it, and love it always.