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Feast of the Holy Family

In 13 Today's Church on 2015/01/18 at 12:00 AM

Holy Family

• On the first Sunday after Christmas, Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, and She does so to remind us that – at least ideally – family life is one of God’s most precious gifts to mankind.

• Perhaps after spending Christmas with your family members some of you beg to differ! But hopefully not.

• In celebrating this beautiful feast, the Church holds the Holy Family out to us as a model for all families. The Holy Family is a family founded upon love and virtue, and we are called to imitate them to the best of our abilities in living with our own families.

• As we consider the nature of family life and how we live amongst our own family members, we should naturally turn our minds to the 4th Commandment, as it is the primary guide to governing the relationships in a family.

• The 4th Commandment, of course, is that we must honor our father and mother. It is a commandment that teaches us that families have a certain hierarchy that requires love and respect for them to operate as they should.

• In learning to live out this requirement of love and respect within our own families, we are ultimately prepared for the life we will have in Heaven as the adopted children of God the Father.

• In learning to honor, love, and respect our earthly parents, we are better prepared for living out our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our readings today are really wonderful because they speak of these concepts of honor, love, and respect.

• Our first reading is from the Book of Sirach, which is truly one of my favorites books in all of Scripture. In a beautiful yet practical way, Sirach wisely counsels us in the proper ways to govern our familial relations.

• Sirach reminds us of the authority that parents necessarily exercise over their children, an authority that lasts as long as the parent lives. Yet Sirach also reminds us of the spiritual benefits that come with recognizing and heeding the authority of our parents.

• 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.

• They are beautiful promises, are they not? And yet it is all true.

• You see, our earthly parents – especially our fathers – are the first representatives of God in our life. They exercise authority over us in God’s stead.

• This is why we are called to honor, love, and respect them. And this is why Sirach says that the kindness we show our fathers will not be forgotten.

• And because we know God as a Father, our earthly fathers have the primary responsibility for teaching us about the nature of God.

• Generally we do this more through our actions than through our words. Obviously, this is an incredibly important responsibility, one that is too‐often neglected in our society today.

• We can easily see that when fathers fail to live up to their God‐given responsibilities of protecting, providing for, and educating their children, they inflict not only emotional and psychological wounds upon their children, but spiritual wounds as well.

• Much is being written and said today about the profound effects that the absence of a father has upon a family. Sociological and psychological data shows us that children who grow up fatherless suffer emotional and psychological consequences that make them more prone to crime, poverty, and educational failure.

• But the worst consequences are the spiritual wounds. When fathers fail to live up to their responsibilities, they can distort the image their children have of God the Father, thus impairing their children’s relationship with their Heavenly Father.

• Of course domestic bliss doesn’t depend solely upon fathers. All members of the family must take on their share of responsibility in maintaining peace and harmony within the home. And this is where we must turn to our second reading.

• St. Paul reminds us today of the importance of exercising compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience with one another. He reminds us of the importance of bearing with one another and forgiving one another.

• St. Paul also reminds us of the proper structure of family life: that men are called to be the head of the family – leading and directing the family, while wives – placing themselves under their husband’s leadership and protection, are called to be the heart of the family.

• Moreover, he reminds us of the duty children have to be obedient to their parents in all things, always respectfully trusting in the authority of their parents.

• At the same time parents must make sure to treat their children well, not provoking them or causing them to be discouraged in any way.

• But most importantly, St. Paul reminds us that we must in all things put on love. True love must govern all of our familial relationships.

• To love someone means that we will, that we desire, what is best for that person. But true love is also sacrificial, meaning that we must be willing to give of ourselves, to sacrifice our own wants and desires, for the sake of those whom we love.

• When it comes to family life, showing love for one another ultimately requires that each family member put aside all selfishness in order to care for the needs of the others.

• In practical terms this means that children should always share with their siblings, giving deference to their brothers and sisters. It also means that kids should be quick to obey their parents without complaining or hassling them.

• For parents true familial love requires seeking first the salvation of your children, placing that as the highest good. This in turn requires that you protect them from the evil and harmful influences that are so prevalent in our society, especially in the various forms of media.

• It means that you teach them our Catholic faith, ensuring that your children go to Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, and that they receive the Sacraments. It means that you teach your children to pray, and to love and honor God.

• For spouses, true familial love is best expressed in constantly looking for ways to serve your spouse, caring for their needs above your own. It means praying for and with your spouse. It requires warm affection and a ready forgiveness when necessary.

• Ultimately, true familial love demands that we be willing to undergo any suffering whatsoever to help ensure that our family members go to Heaven.

• My dear brothers and sisters, family life is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Let us strive to live it well, not simply for the natural pleasures that can be derived from it, but so that we can better prepare ourselves for eternal life with our heavenly family.

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC

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