The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
A Homily - Cycle C - 2006-2007

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First Reading - Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Second Reading - Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17
Gospel - Luke 2:41-52

Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Each year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."  And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them.  He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

". . .you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses. . . to the ends of the earth" (Acts 8)

Today's feast of the Holy Family is intended to help us re-focus our minds and affirm our belief in the indispensable nature of marriage and family life.  When we consider the present status of marriages in the United States, we can scarcely gainsay that the preservation of stable marriages and families is sorely needed in contemporary American society.  The virtues and caring relationships which St. Paul enumerated in his letter to the Colossians is a demanding formula for inter-personal relationships, true; but they are pivotal for successful marriages and for the spiritual growth of family members.

I opened my reflection today with a quotation from the "Acts of the Apostles"  " . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1, 8).  While these words were directed to the first generation of Jesus' disciples, they apply to us as well.  Each of us has received the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  His power (grace) has been made available to us, so we can not truthfully dodge our responsibility to be witnesses for Christ in contemporary society.  American society today needs the witness of committed spousal relationships and stable family life.

In the past week, the "Washington Times" newspaper ran a series of four articles concerning marriage in America.  The lead article (by Cheryl Wetzstein) asked: (is the) U.S. out of love with marriage?  I quote in part: "In reality, Americans seem to be swirling in a mist of confusion about family life.  In many ways they crave a world in which marriage and children are the pinnacles of life.  But year after year, the country seems to be inching toward a culture in which adult pleasures and pastimes have a higher value then monogamy . . "

Further on in the article the question was raised: "Can the 'model' marriage . .  survive in a culture that increasingly practices - and approves of - nonmarital sexual lifestyles and childrearing?" "Easy" and "No fault" divorce laws, the prevalence of cohabitation, and so-called "same-sex marriages" were also cited as factors contributing to the instability of American marriages.  That, my dear friends, is the cultural context in which Christian married couples and families are called to give witness to God's design for marriage.

Far be it for me - a celibate, childless male - to give a blasè impression that the vocation of marriage and family life is a 'waltz in the park'!  The task which loving spouses and parents undertake is as difficult as it is awesome.  I am humbled by comparison when I consider the self-sacrifices, dedication and heartaches which are the warp and woof of stable marriages.  I salute the marital commitment of those who have been called to help form a "Holy Nation, A People Set Apart."

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, you may feel that you are being put in an unfair contest.  The parents of Jesus were, after all, recipients of exceptional graces, and specifically chosen by God to be the human instruments for communicating God's love to all mankind.  But make no mistake about it, you have the God-given potential to emulate the holiness of the Holy Family!  A common element in the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was their openness to seek and to respond affirmatively to the will of God, vis-a-vi their life's direction.  Each of us, in our respective vocations can seek to know God's will for us, through daily prayer.  Jesus assured his first disciples: "He who seeks shall find, to him who knocks it shall be opened."  Jesus' formula for living a holy life was "Pray always"!

As we celebrate today's feast, let us pray for one-another, our families, our nation and our parish family as well.  May the new "Year of the Lord," 2007, be a time in which we all "progress steadily in wisdom, age and grace before both God and man" (Luke 2).

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