Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
We began the last week of Advent with this verse from, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel:” “O come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.”
The universe and all of creation was created by God with a certain order that maintains harmony and peace. As God gave mankind dominion over his creation, he expected us to maintain the order he established.
In the first reading we see one aspect of maintaining that order – we are to honor our Father and our Mother. This is such an important part of God’s plan that the promise is given – “Who ever honors his father . . . when he prays is heard.” Being obedient to our parents helps us to learn be obedient to God.
In the second reading, Paul gives us additional insights of what we must do to keep order. He says, “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” In Christ we will find the strength we need to maintain order in our relationships as husbands and wives, parents and children. There is a right way to fulfill our role, whatever it is. And, of course, the reality is, even if we try to faithfully do our part, it doesn’t mean that others will be faithful. I’m sure that there are many parents here who take their relationships with God seriously, and even though they have made every effort to guide their children in the right way, some have rebelled. Peer pressure is very difficult to overcome. And maybe there are some children here who have felt called to a religious vocation and have not received support from their parents.
Ordering our life to God is a daily struggle which calls us to perseverance in prayer and the sacramental life. Our Lord offers us all the grace we need to take one day at a time, and to trust that in the end everything will be okay if we persevere. It doesn’t mean things will not be difficult; it does mean we will always have hope.
We see in the Gospel that the Holy Family was not spared the difficulties of life. Even though they were the holiest, most important family in the history of the world they were still vulnerable to the evil intentions of others. Their protection was their immediate obedience to God. They also faithfully followed the religious practices of their time as we know by their visits to the Temple. That is how they maintained their connection with the Heavenly Father and fulfilled His plan. The same is true for us. We also need our Heavenly Father’s protection which we receive when we are faithful to what He has revealed to us. We will still experience difficulties, but we will always have hope. If we stay close to Him, He will help us to have holy families.
It is not news that in this country, the most powerful country in the world, the institution of family is at a point of crisis. Almost every family has experienced some degree of trauma – whether physical, economical, psychological, or spiritual. Almost every family has a relative that is divorced. A recent statistic states that only one third of children in this country will live with both biological parents until they reach the age eighteen. The greatest need of our time is the renewal of the family; and the only way it can be renewed is with the help of God’s grace; by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church, even if others are not.
Our families are God’s plan for the future of the world. The family is intended to be the domestic Church where husband, wife and children are joined together in prayer and grow together in faith. The family is where vocation should first be discovered.
Even if our family life has not been what it could have, it is not too late to begin anew. Whether you are married, divorced or single, it is not too late to ask “Wisdom, to teach us in her ways to go.” The way people have persevered through the ages is by attending mass every weekend (during the week, if possible) praying daily (privately and with people we love), reading Scriptures, frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving each other for hurts experienced, by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, by reading the lives of the saints and by continuing to be formed in the faith, and by being generous with our time, talent and treasure.
The domestic church, like every church, is made up of the people that occupy it. However, there are things we can do to help us be more aware of the presence of God, and to help us enter into prayer. Every home should have a crucifix and religious art to show that the Faith is important to those who live there. There can be a special room or part of a room where you have an altar or shelf on which you place candles, a bible, holy pictures and favorite prayers that help you enter into prayer. There can be a designated time when the family prays together; especially the Rosary, or at least part of the Rosary. It is very meaningful for parents to bless their children before bed and before leaving the house by tracing the cross on their foreheads as you say, “…may God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
God has a great plan for each of us if we allow Him to guide us by way of the Scriptures, the Church, the lives of the saints and His wisdom. It has to begin first of all as a desire in our hearts and continues when we share this desire with others, especially those we love.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us. Help us to be holy!