12.31.17 Christmas Season Mon. – B
1st Reading Sirach 3: 2 – 6, 12 – 14
The Genesis 15: 1 – 6, 21: 1 – 3
Gospel – Luke 2: 22 – 40 Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Being A Holy Family
Today’ Feast of the Holy Family centers on Jesus being born into a human family. When we look at the Scriptures, family life is seen as both difficult and grace-filled. Here are some examples. Look at the family of Jacob and his 12 boys. His sons planned to kill their brother Joseph, but then in a moment of charity, they decided not to do that; they decided, instead, to sell him into slavery. Their reunion, years later, is one of the most emotional scenes in the Scriptures. So we see Jacob’s family as both difficult and grace-filled. Bathsheba gave in to the seductions of King David. I have always wondered, did she give him a pass for killing her husband? Difficult families. Look at the genealogy of †Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, go through the list of names that are there. It is full of saintly people and public sinners. †Jesus Himself had a complicated relationship with His own family. At age twelve, He walked away from Mary and Joseph and stayed in Jerusalem. And then he was surprised and a bit put out, when Mary and Joseph said they wanted Him to return with them to Nazareth. He obediently did. Then as an adult, †Jesus left Nazareth and relocated in Capernaum where He started His Ministry. His family became very concerned about Him; once came to drag Him home because they thought He had lost His mind.
All families are complicated at best, no family is perfect but families must strive to be holy. Holiness can exist without perfection. Holiness can exist in our families without perfection. And the Holy Spirit gives us the grace – if we choose to receive it, on the journey to holiness. It is easy to miss the grace that is present in our families, but we tend to focus on the imperfection of the members of our families; the weaknesses of each member. As St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Colossians: “Put on love…the bond of perfection.” (3:14) If love is at the center of family life, holiness will follow.
How does God communicate His love to humanity? God communicates His love through creation, through His creatures and through members of families. That’s how God communicates His love to us. Pope Francis has great hope for families and in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, wrote: “A family’s living space could turn into a domestic Church, a setting for the Eucharistic Presence of Christ seated at its table.” (AL 15) Christ is present when the family gathers. Didn’t †Jesus say: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst”? So your dinner table could be similar to a Eucharistic Table by prayer and family life bringing †Jesus into your midst. Your home can be filled with the presence of God, shared prayer, abundant blessings; signs that it is a “domestic church”. Pope Francis continues: “Through His church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to give witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion.” (AL 63) Family life can be messy at times, we know that, but it can also be the center of an encounter with God’s holiness; and God’s holiness is simply the fullness of love.
†Jesus being born into a human family changed the history of the world. St Gregory Nazianzen, was a fourth century theologian and this is what he preached. “The Savior brought salvation. Even though as God He created the entire universe, (He) could have done so by the mere expression of His will. What He did give us was greater and more compelling.” (St. Gregorian Nazianzus: Selected Orations; Fathers of the Church, vol. 107; Catholic University of America Press) God could have come down out of the heavens in all His glory and, in a spectacular way, simply redeemed all humanity. He could have done that, but He chose to enter into a family and this remains a mystery to many who do not understand the selflessness of God’s love. St. Paul reminds us: “He who was in the form of God did not seek equality with God something to be grasped, rather He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:6-8) To understand this incredible love we must enter into the mystery of the birth of Christ which we have been celebrating during this Octave of Christmas. Enter the mystery of Mary’s: “Yes,” to the angel. The “Yes” of Joseph, who gave a name to †Jesus and watched over Mary. We need to contemplate the joy of the shepherds who sat silently in awe at the manger; to prayerfully meditate on the adoration of the Magi; to contemplate the fulfillment of the promise made known to Simeon and Anna in the Temple as we heard in the Gospel just a few moments ago. Consider the fear in the Holy Family as they made the flight into Egypt, living as refugees with a newborn child. It was God sharing in His people’s experiences of exile, persecution, and humiliation. And God did not have to do that, but He wanted to show us the depth of His love by entering into family life to show that when family life is not perfect, He is still present in our midst. Consider how the teachers of the Law marveled at the wisdom of the twelve year old †Jesus.
God’s love is present in all of these events in the life of the Holy Family. Even in the hidden years of †Jesus as you heard at the end of the Gospel as †Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40) Only when we begin to understand the unconditional nature of God’s love for us, will we begin to recognize the grace that is present in our families.
Within the family there can be communion among its members and this reflects the mystery of the Holy Trinity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the family, “One learns endurance and the joy at work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life” (CCC, 1657) The family with these qualities is a true “little church,” as St. John Paul II described the family. Through family life, we are called to “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” (Col.3:12ff) And what these words of St. Paul do – is to unmask the mystery of holiness in the family. To live compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, that’s how you bring holiness into the family.
As Pope Francis reminds us, the experience of love in the family is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church. As your families grow in love, the Church grows in love as well, and through the Church “Christ bestows on marriage and the family, the grace necessary to bear witness to the love of God and to live a life of communion.” (AL 63) The Church and your family have a reciprocal relationship; when one is strong the other is strong, that’s why families are so integral in the life of the Church.
Just as your families are messy at times, the Church is messy at times. We are all on a journey to the fullness of perfection. The Holy Father writes: “The church is a family of families, constantly enriched by lives of all those domestic churches.” (AL 87) Our Church, our parish, is essentially enriched by the lives of its families; of your families.
Some of you might be amazed to think that abundant grace is present in your family. Does Fr. Mike really know my family? Has he ever been to our house? There’s not a whole lot of grace there. Well, let me tell you, you are in pretty good company if that’s the case in your house, because Mary and Joseph had exactly the same problem. Theologians in the early centuries of the Church thought it odd that Simeon’s prophecy about †Jesus which we heard in the Gospel, left Mary and Joseph “amazed” at what was said by him. Mark writes: “They were amazed at what was said about Him” (Luke 2:33). Mary and Joseph had already heard from the angel Gabriel, from Elizabeth, from the shepherds, from the entire heavenly hosts, that †Jesus would be a source of divine grace and in spite of this, Simeon caught them off guard when he spoke about †Jesus. At times our families are too close to see all of this – as Mary and Joseph seemed struck with amazement in the Gospel.
How is this different from us? Are you amazed when I say your spouse, your children, your parents can be saints? Does that amaze you? We often forget that members of our families can be a source of grace in our lives. And today’s feast reminds us to seek God’s grace through selfless love in the family, in spouses, children, parents, the extended family, and our family of faith here at Sacred Heart. Family life – messy, challenging; but it can also be a fountain of grace that transforms us, leading us to holiness, leading us to be saints. And death or divorce are not barriers to God’s grace in the family. Grace can be present in weakness. Recall the words of St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “I will boast most gladly of my weakness, in order that the power of Christ may dwell within me…For when I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Cor.12:9-10)
The gift of grace given to each one of your families can strengthen your trust in God’s love for you; a love that will be the foundation of your holy family.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit .