Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holy Family, Holy Families, Holy Church

Holy Family 29 December 2013   Deacon John McMullen

The book of Sirach calls families to tenderness and compassion: “Whoever honors his father atones for sins....he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.... Children, take care of your parents… even if their minds fail, be considerate, for kindness to a father or mother will not be forgotten.”

Saint Paul takes up the topic of family life as well. These verses of scripture are often abused. "Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them." The husband is to be Christ-like to his wife. That is, being a man of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love, and peace. 

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes that both husbands and wives are to both “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” He also reminds husbands that they must love their wives as their own body, and be willing to die for them. “…just as Christ loved the Church” (See Ephesians 5.21-33).

In the ancient world, marriage wasn't based on love. So by calling on husbands to love their wives to the point of death must have turned the male chauvinism and misogyny of the ancient Roman world topsy-turvy.

Paul also writes: “Children, obey your parents…. And parents, do not provoke your children, else they may become discouraged.”

Actually, these passages are rather radical because the women in the Roman Empire had no say… and children were property! So for the women and children to be considered persons is quite revolutionary.

In family life, it’s all about mutual respect and love. In many ways it is what makes our families our home.

Marriage and family life isn’t about power or dominating another person; it’s about surrendering to one another for the good of all.

Christ calls us to tenderness. And this is certainly the rule for family life.

And as a result we can become a community of love for one another and for the world.

Unfortunately, there is much confusion about married love today. We see it all too often: someone is in love with being in love and then rushes into a relationship just be in a relationship. Others only plan a wedding – and fail to prepare for a life-long marriage commitment.

Too many folks are out are there looking for someone to come along and fix him or “complete” her; looking for Ms. or Mr. Right to fulfill his or her every desire, but no human person can do that. Until each of us seeks to become the right person each of us are called to be, then we will not likely be right for anyone else.

We are all aware that the members of our family today have many faces: the youth; the single person; the separated and divorced; the estranged; the single parent, often a single mother raising a child or children alone or with help from her parents; the divorced and remarried with blended families; the widowed; the elderly; and, yes, the addict and the incarcerated. Yet all are called to live as the family of God, loving and caring for all.

But let’s admit it, the Holy family did not have it easy either.
Joseph nearly divorced Mary. And Mary could have been stoned to death for her questionable pregnancy. Then the expectant couple had to travel 90 miles to Bethlehem for the Roman census and taxes. Where Jesus was born in a manger, in the shadows of a world dominated by Roman tyranny.

The first Christmas itself was marred with tragedy.

In the gospel King Herod felt his whole world threatened by an infant! So he ordered the slaughter of all the baby boys in Bethlehem – two years and under.

Saint Joseph is told by the angel of the Lord to protect his family, to flee Judea and go down to Egypt; he is obedient to the Word of God. Joseph teaches us by his silent witness that he is a man for others, willing to lay down his life for Mary and Jesus when he does as the angel instructed.

Yet each of us is called to protect our families and each other. Joseph’s example calls us to support the lives of others and protect others from evil and deathYou and I are responsible for the care of each other.

There are many threats to family life today: alcohol, drugs, and violence, murder. (On Christmas Eve there was a murder and stabbing not far from here off of Washington Avenue).

There is a malignant spiritual force that seeks to destroy our lives, our souls, our families. There is certainly something diabolical in our current culture that has become so blatantly anti-life, anti-child, and anti-family.

We see marriages that are nothing more than a prom date gone wrong; and may last a day to a week, Christian marriage itself being redefined by society, reduced to mere emotional sentiment; purity ridiculed, human sexuality cheapened and debased; while others regard pregnancy as a disease or the gift of human life is treated as one more consumer good, a product that one has a right to purchase, manipulate, or destroy at whim.

For the children that are born, human personhood is now considered by a few something that should be earned, and only granted to those human beings that are desirable or meet certain physiological or cultural standards.

Yes, I hear the concerns, the anxiety, the discouragement from many of you: “It’s hard to believe what is happening in our world; sometimes it’s very difficult believe, to be hopeful in the face of such evil.” “How did we ever get so far away from kindness, tenderness, and love?’”

Yes, our culture has grown cold, cruel and violent, but there is hope! We are called to be the warmth of God, a light in the darkness, a tender loving presence in the midst of evil.

We have hope. Christ entered into our sinful world to redeem us! And this is our hope, the very same hope of the holy family.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is the foundation for the Christian family; the place where children first learn the love of God through the love of their parents. The family is the domestic church, “the Church at home,” where children first witness the faith proclaimed and lived as a community of grace and love, learning the art of forgiveness. Children also learn the dignity of work, participating in family chores and responsibilities, helping to make the house a home. 

Parents are the children’s first teachers in the faith. Families should gather for family prayer and worship regularly at the parish. Children should especially see their parents praying and; helping those in need, serving others, and forgiving each other. Often. Often.

The family that eats together stays together. How appropriate that the kitchen table is sometimes called the altar of the domestic church. For every home is a church and, just as we gather here at this altar to share in the feast of the love of God, when we gather around our kitchen tables, we find consolation and nourishment and prayer.

A family that eats together and prays together will then share their faith with others. As a result true joy will be a radiant light in the darkness, the tender loving presence of God mercifully welcoming all.

This is what it means to be a holy family.

Together, then, let us grow as holy families,

and as holy families we will become a holy Church,

a welcoming parish family and home for all.

Intercessions: Holy Family Sunday

That the example of the holy family may inspire the Church of God and all of the baptized to imitate the virtues of family life and extend us in acts of charity, we pray to the Lord…

For an increase in charity for those called to the vocation of marriage: may their love for each other and their openness to children, be a sign of Christ’s love for the Church, we pray to the Lord…

For children everywhere, especially those who are neglected and abused: that Christ in His mercy may free them from evil and distress, and that their abusive parents or guardians may have a change of heart, we pray to the Lord….

That Christ may guide the minds and hearts of all those who govern us: may they promote the common good, especially safeguarding the lives of families, children and the elderly, according to his will, we pray to the Lord….

For all of our parents, especially those who are ill or suffering mentally, emotionally, or physically; and all those who have no one left to comfort them, may we patiently and tenderly love them, we pray to the Lord….

That all of us might open our doors to those who have no family or those who are estranged from their families of origin, as Jesus taught us, we pray to the Lord….

For the lives of the unborn and newborn: that all might see the dignity of human life in Jesus the infant child, we pray to the Lord….

That the souls of our dearly beloved dead, especially _______: may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rejoice in the presence of Christ, we pray to the Lord…..

1 comment:

  1. It has been said the family is the unit of society. Society seems determined to re-define the family without realizing it is re-defining itself in a destructive manner. To quote Fr. L. Giussani: "In the family it is evident that the fundamental element in development of the person lies in the mutual, conjugated belonging of two factors: man and woman." To me this implies fatherhood -- the protector and provider, like Joseph and motherhood -- the nurturer of mind, body, and soul, like Mary.

    Let us pray for marriages that they mirror Christ's love for his Church and thus promote a culture of commitment as we support in a loving way those families struggling with divorce, separation , single parents, illness, and poverty.