Sirach 3:2-7,12-14/Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5/Colossians 3:12-21/Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
There are three homily notes here, remained blessed as you meditate upon them
Rev. Fr. Thomas Oyode
“The Holy Family of Nazareth: From Promise to Fulfillment”
Our gospel reading for today is from Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23, the infancy narrative. Generally, this passage is more or less an introductory summary of the entire public ministry of Jesus to begin subsequently from chapter three, encapsulating the opposition that such ministry would encounter especially from political and religious leaders.
More important for our reflection, however, is the characteristic manner in which Matthew refers to “the prophets” in today’s reading. It strikes a chord on how Jesus’ life and the Holy Family’s experiences are well linked to divine providence, divine plan. First which is the reference to Egypt (2:13-15), reminds us of Israel, understood as God’s chosen servant who was called out of Egypt to the Land of Promise (Hosea 11:1). Jesus is thus presented here again as Son of God, Leader and Saviour (cf. Ex. 1:15-23). The second is that Joseph, realising that Herod had died and that the 5th Cenury King Archelaus the Ethnarch has assumed the throne as king of Judea, decided to go to to Nazareth instead of Israel. Interestingly, there is no Old Testament mention of Nazareth but it appears Matthew wants us to see a link between Isaiah’s (11:1) reference to a “shoot of Jesse”, “a bud of Jesse” and Jesus who is also a descent of David, or to Samson also a leader and saviour of Israel who was “consecrated” to Yahweh (Jdg. 13:5.7). In both cases, the words “neser” for shoot and “nazir” for consecrated become fitting for Jesus Son of David, Son of God and Saviour of God’s people.
Now we learn from the story of Jesus that God values the family and that he could not save the world without coming through a family which he himself created from the beginning of time. This teaching is continually reiterated by the Church’s ordinary magisterium from Humanis Vitae to the very recent Amoris Laetitia.
A second point which is corollary to the above, is that we are to imitate God in valuing family life and doing everything possible to preserving it. This value is objective so long as it is according to the will of God who chose to unite Mary and Joseph as parents and subjected himself to them as son. However, certain cultural values, under the influence of historical evolution have also impacted on this objective idea of the family. Tendencies such as surrogacy, transgender movements, homosexuality and lesbianism are forcefully bringing the traditional family life under serious review. In some cultures, and among some individuals, it is enough to come together as couples, cohabiting without offspring. What all of these point to is that man seeks to determine his entire existence outside and against the very plan and will of God: that the family is a divinely willed institution whereby a man and a woman come together in a union of love and intimacy for the sole purpose of procreation and education of children. Any other orientation, tendency or ideology outside this scope is a danger for humanity, we must say. This value is what our first reading also calls to preserving (Sr. 3:3-7,14-17).
Lastly, our lives and existence within our families is destined and planned by God. As much as we must value family life as an institution, we must value our own families with or without imperfections. There are some who are not have been lucky to have been born into a stable, peaceful, happy, wealthy family. It takes faith and love to grow and appreciate our families as God’s own gift in spite of the insufficiencies and defects that may be there. It takes faith to understand and believe that our destinies have been knitted with our families and God still directs our lives and purposes on earth irrespective of which family we are born into.
Let the example of the Holy family teach us courage. Let us see in the troubles, difficulties and sorrows of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, our own family troubles and challenges. So that as we see God moving and directing their story, their history and existence, we may also see God moving and directing our own families through the difficulties of life. May the Holy Family of Nazareth intercede for us and may families everywhere experience Christ’s peace today and in the years ahead. Amen.
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It gives us an opportunity to relate the situations in our own families especially now that children are around their parents. The Feast is held on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day; if both are Sundays, the feast is celebrated on December 30th. They are called HOLY Family not because they never had crisis and troubles but because they obeyed the voice of God in every situation. Therefore, the primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families. We shall look at some few points for inspiration and further meditation.
Divine Interventions: God desires to be with man, to intervene in man living. He was in search of man in Gen.3:9 when he said “ Where are you?”this intervention guides us. In the narrative of the birth of Jesus and his early life Joseph, the wise men and others were guided by an angel in their dreams. We too must allow ourselves, like Joseph, to be guided by God in all he wants us to do. Nobody is an expert of existence God the owner of our being seeks to guide us daily on how best we can come to him. Most times we are guided through dreams and we are not sensitive to it. No doubt dreams form an essential aspect of our spirituality and belief but that does not mean that every dream becomes a cause for anxiety and prayer point. Some Pastors have ruined many because of dreams and their interpretations. Apart from dreams God speaks to us through other interventions. It could be through the scriptures, the teaching of the Church, through sermons, hymns, or friends who talk to us, or others we meet in our daily living. Every Christian or Christian families therefore, should be conscious of his or their spiritual experiences and growth. When you cannot tell the difference seek for spiritual direction from a qualified director.
Following God: Throughout the scriptures never was it recorded that those who followed the way of the Lord were put to shame. They may have gone terrible and hard times, they may have gone through sicknesses and afflictions but their experiences were never a disaster; they came out refined and better. Gods direction leads to salvation. All the directives he gave to Joseph was to save Jesus the New Born King. Joseph found himself and his family in a wandering situation but with a purpose. For salvation sake they almost became wanderer and slowly but surely they were saved from the hands of Herod. Often times families find themselves in a wandering situation; we stay in one house today in another tomorrow, yet again, from one town to another town. We find ourselves in areas we never bargained for. These are moments we should cry to God to help us like Joseph to follow his way where he leads us. A hymn is chorused thus:
Oh, the future lies before me, And I know not where I’ll be;But where’er my path be leading,Savior, keep my heart with Thee.
Beloved in Christ, the Holy Family simply says to us that the experience of crisis does not mean that our families are not holy, rather we should be stand by each other. The second readings further illustrated this when it says we should express compassion, kindness, meekness and patience forbearing and forgiving one another. More so, the first reading reminds us about the duties of children towards their parents. Therefore, respect, tolerance and obedience make the family Holy. We pray through this Eucharistic celebration the Lord will keep our family in his peace.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke
*Christ’s Presence in the Human Family*Today, we are given the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as model for our families. That is to say that, if we must live appropriately as a family, we must look intently at this Holy Family, draw out the virtues they practiced and continuously seek to practice them ourselves. So many families surround us; many of them are good to us and give us their support; one of them functioned as our sponsor on our wedding day. Today’s celebration tells us that none of them are models except that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They may have enviable virtues and that is because they are emulating the Holy Family; why not you emulate the source directly?
The first thing that today’s celebration brings to mind is the fact Jesus had and grew up in a family. This all the more speaks about the humanity of Jesus Christ. The saving mission of Jesus was nurtured and matured in a family setting. This explains how the family is a domestic Church. A family that does not see Christ in themselves, may not see Him elsewhere.
The family is made up of father, mother and children. Even though Jesus was not to have a biological father, the role of a father was not to be overridden in his life. It is an act of ungratefulness and injustice for anyone to decide to bring a child into this world without the intention of living completely as a family. Single parenting (when it is consciously willed) will only produce half-nurtured children. Every child has the right to be brought up by the father and the mother. If God calls a father or a mother to himself, he knows how to fill the vacuum he himself has created; but for such vacuum to be consciously created is against the will of God. We cannot be wiser than God who provided Jesus with a family.
Joseph obeyed the message of the angel because he recognized it to be from God. Without an active prayer life, we will not be able to recognize the workings of God in our lives. If a family is not prayerful, how will they discover God’s will for them? There are so many factors that fight against family co-existence in our world today. Only God can see the family through these challenges; that is why a family that prays together, stays together. In your home, have an altar, set a particular time for family prayer. Never allow a misunderstanding to make you dishonour the time for family prayer.
In the gospel reading of today, Joseph is found taking the child and his mother from place to place for safety. When the angel appeared to him, he didn’t say: “take your child and your wife…” he rather said: “take the child and his mother”. This clearly shows that Jesus was not Joseph’s biological child neither was Joseph living with Mary as a man would live with the wife. Yet, all of these did not deter Joseph from giving his best. He did not feel reluctant nor hesitated in doing the needful. The angel only told Joseph what to do; in his own initiative, he took Mary and Jesus by night to ensure their safety. Through Joseph, prophecies about Jesus were fulfilled: “out of Egypt have I called my son”, “He shall be called a Nazarene”.
The above scenario is not an imperfection but it does teaches families how to manage their imperfections. No family is perfect because it is made up of human beings who are not perfect themselves. Therefore, do not expect that your family members will be perfect; imperfection does not call for disagreement but for understanding. The second reading listed some virtues that help in handling imperfections: compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.
In psalm 130: 3 we pray “if you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive?” This means that we survive on the basis of God’s mercy; in the same vein will the family life survive when members learn to forgive one another again and again and again. A family that keeps record of offenses scatters.
Friends in Christ, today’s celebrations speaks to us of Christ’s presence in the human family. It is His presence that brings us the desired peace. In the family, every member is answerable and accountable to other members. To be accountable means to remain committed to our respective duties and to be charitable in helping out with that of others. Charity necessarily begins at home. If you are a good man/woman/boy/girl out there but cannot reflect it in your family, then, your goodness is questionable.
Today too, we remember in our prayers troubled families, broken homes, homes in disarray, children of single parents, orphans and so on. To these and us all the gospel acclamation says: “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts; let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Later today and always, take out time to read and meditate on the first and second readings of today. The resolve to be a more responsible person in your family is enough resolution for the New Year because its effect is far-reaching and all-encompassing. God Bless You!