Homily – Feast of the Holy Family

Homily Ė Feast of the Holy Family
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. All of our scripture readings reflect on aspects of family life including the duties and blessings that come about as a result of the faithful living of family life. Understanding what a family is supposed to be is critically important to understanding life with God. Father , Son and Holy Spirit are names that designate relationships. God expresses his relationship with us in terms of covenants which are family bonds. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man, in order to save us from our sins and that we might become Children of God. It is critically important to understand what a family truly is and what God intends it to be in order to understand God in three persons and our relationship with him. If our image of the family is distorted then our image of God will be distorted. If our image of family relationships is distorted then our understanding of our relationship with God will be as well. This is one reason God gives us a model to look to in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Today we hold them up as an example to all Christians of what family life should look like and what we are called to in our relationships within our families and with God.
It is more important than ever that we look toward the Holy Family as a true model of family life to be imitated. In our current society the institution of the family is under attack. There are forces in the world constantly at work to destroy the traditional and biblical understanding of what it means to be family. These people would like to remake the family according to their image rather than Gods. You see it constantly in the attacks to redefine marriage as being something other than between a man and a woman and God. Marriage as an institution belongs to God and is only between a man and a woman and God. It is not a relationship or a word that the state has a right to redefine. You see the attack in permissive divorce legislation and such things as no fault divorces. Divorce happens and itís no ones fault? People attempt to define marriage as a civil relationship that can be redefined or changed at the whim of either party instead of the life long covenant bond between God, man and wife. Marriage reflects the divine life of the Trinity and that is not one that changes but one that is steadfast, fruitful, and faithful. You see the attacks in the widespread use of contraception and current legislation that is attempting to force the Catholic Church to violate its teachings and cover the cost of contraception for its employees. Can you imagine a divine family that wasnít open to new life? That was closed in on itself. A Father and a Son not open to a third person. A Mary and a Joseph without a Jesus. A God who didnít have enough love for every child born into the world? Look at the word contraception itself. Contra means against, conception the beginning of new life. What kind of family would stand against the beginning of new life. Only one that was dead on the inside. There is even a movement now to legislate against parents teaching their children their religious faith because they think the children should be free to choose for themselves. In other words it would be illegal for you to teach your children about God. You think this is impossible? There are court cases right now in the system to do that.
All of these acts are a part of a larger plan to destroy the human family as revealed by God. Satan knows as well as we do the importance of the family and that is why he attacks it so ferociously. The family is the basic building block of society. It is where people are first taught about God. It is the first seminary. It is here that they learn the virtues espoused in our second reading: compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. The parents are the first heralds of the Gospel to their children. They are the first and best educators of their children. All of these things are truths given to us by God in Church teaching. All of them are important to building the kingdom of God and bringing souls to heaven. Satan knows our teaching better than us and he uses it as a weapon against us. The battle has commenced and we are not even raising our hands to fight. Instead we stand there and are slaughtered like animals as our enemy has his way. The battle for the future of our culture, the Church and the Kingdom of God lies in the family and you husbands and wives are on the front lines.
The interesting thing about the battle is often times husbands and wives are too busy fighting each other that they donít even see the enemy coming into to steal their childrenís souls. Their relationship with each other becomes a model of relationships for their children and when the children are older they fight and rebel against their parents. A true husband and wife relationship is spoken of in our second reading. For many modern sensibilities that makes them cringe. How dare we say that one should be subordinate to another. One person canít dominate another. They are equal. The last two sentences are true but they donít apply to the true meaning of subordinate. Think of it in terms of the head and the body. A body can only have one head. If it has more than one it is a monster or a freak. Does that mean that the head dominates the body? Does it means it doesnít care about the rest of the parts. Does it means that the other parts are not equal in dignity with the head. Would you like your body to do things other than what your brain tells it? But a body that didnít listen to the head and go in the direction that the head guides it would be horrible prison to be in. The head is supposed to direct the body in ways that are good for the entire body. The care of the body is the responsibility of the head. In just the same way the care of the family is ultimately the responsibility of the husband who works together with his wife. He is to love his wife and honor her all the days of his life.
Look to the Holy Family for the model. Do you see dissension in their marriage? When God tells Joseph he needs to take his family to Egypt to protect them does Mary fight him? Does Joseph Dominate Mary and Jesus for his own pleasure or whims? Or is Joseph a man of prayer? Does he meditate and listen to the word of God? Does he make his decisions for the family based on his own personal opinion or Godís word and principals? Did Mary being subordinate to Joseph in any way shape or form maker her less of a person? In fact no one ever has been, is, or will be holier and in higher esteem than Mary. Does Jesus, the King of Kings, the all knowing divinity united to human flesh rebel against his parents? He knows more than them. He isnít ever wrong. Does he ever disobey them? Not according to scripture, so children have no excuse either to be disobedient to their parents.
One day we will stand accountable before God for how we answered our vocational calls. Mothers and Fathers will be held responsible for how they raised their children. If God asks you why the enemy was able to steal your childrenís souls, I can promise you it is not a good answer to say we were too busy fighting amongst ourselves. The only reasonable thing you can say is we did everything to teach our children the faith, to model holy lives for them, and build the good habits and virtues in them that would allow them to be good Christians, but they decided to leave anyway.
So practically how can you do this? Look to our first reading. Your children are gifts from God and everything you do should be directed to giving them back and dedicating them to God. This should be every Mother and Fatherís #1 New Years resolution. You should sit down as a couple and plan for your families spiritual well being for the next year. Where are your strong points and where are your weak points? You should learn what the Church teaches on the family so that you know where you should be heading. How many of you are aware that Pope John Paul II wrote an entire letter to families? How many have read it? How many have left it unopened? How many have talked about how to implement it in their home? If you want a copy you need simply go to Hurleyís and ask to buy one.
You should take advantage of the tools the Church gives you: namely the sacraments. You must live a good sacramental life and set the example for your children. You must take your family to Mass together as a family every Sunday even when your on vacation. You must take them to confession together as a family. I would recommend at least 4 times a year. You should use sacramentals. How many families have holy water in their houses? How many rooms have crucifixís in them? How many of you have made the 9 first Friday promises and dedicated your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If I walked into your home would I know you were Catholic? How many pray together as a family? How about the rosary? How many teach their children prayers or do we leave that to CCD? It is your responsibility and you cannot delegate it. How many of you pray to God that he will raise up vocations to the priesthood and religious life from your family? How many pilgrimages to holy places and shrines have you made like the Holy Family in the Gospel today?
I could go on and on. Not to admonish you, but to give you hope. There are thousands of ways the Church offers for you to grow together as a family and to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth. You have thousands of weapons and the infinite power of God on your side if you choose to use it for the Battle. You need to sit down and decide a plan of action for yourselves and for your family. It is said that a failure to plan is a plan for failure. I guarantee that Satan has a plan for you and your family. I hope you have one to counteract him. I suggest starting with the Popeís letter to families and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We would be happy to help you in any way we can but we canít choose to do it for you. To have a holy family is a beautiful thing but it requires an active choice on your part. If you want to be a Holy family you must choose to live that way. The choice is yours. Your eternal salvation and that of your children depends on it. Choose well.

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