HOMILY FOR SUNDAY: THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH

HOMILY FOR SUNDAY: THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH

Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40

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Fr. Dan Evbotokhai: The Beauty of Christian Family 

Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Imitating the Holy Family

Fr. Paul Oredipe:  PRIORITY OF FAMILY LIFE –  Sacrificial Love and Respect

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:

The Beauty of Christian Family 

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. The primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families. Again, we are here to offer all the members of our families on the altar for God’s blessing. Today the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement.  

In the gospel, we see Jesus being brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph to fulfil the Law. The family they say is the first agent of socialization; it is also the first agent of spiritualization. We have the duties to introduce our children to God and the Church. Thus, the Church encourages us to carry infant baptism and other means to draw our children close to God. Often times, we leave our children out of our spiritual growth, we leave them at home and come to the Church with the mindset that they are too small or that they will be making noise in the Church. Beloved, draw your children to God; ensure they identify with the cultural and religious demands of their age.  Assist them to pass through spiritual lessons and stages.

They are called Holy Family not because they never had crisis and troubles but because they obeyed the voice of God in every situation. This family had moments of crisis; Joseph at a certain point wanted to send Mary away. They were both worried when Jesus was missing in the temple but they learnt to listen to the voice of God. In fact, moments of family crisis abound in scriptures; the first couple never understood themselves and they accused one another for the sin committed; Noah’s sons disrespected their father Noah; Abraham and Sarah suffered the crisis of childlessness – in fact Abraham had to struggle with the tension between Sara and Hagar; he also had to struggle with his nephew Lot. The family of Jacob had to struggle theirs out; Miran and Aaron joined forces to oppose their brother Moses; David battled with lust, adultery and homicide; he also suffered the rebellion of Absalom who turned against him. These and many others had to struggle with family crisis. In all, we must learn from the Holy family how to exercise faith, patience, kindness and humility. The second reading rightly noted the faith response of Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. Without faith we lack effective management of family crisis. In addition, the bible says in Col.3:14-15 “… clothe yourselves in love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” With these keys we shall prevail over family crisis.

 Again, Christian parents must imitate the example of Simeon; the bible says he was a righteous man. This means that all he did pleased the Lord; he was a man of integrity. Parents must learn to be people of integrity. If we want our children to be people of integrity we must teach them the same. What we do, speaks louder than what we say. Severally, we continue to see how many of our leaders are brought to book because of stolen funds, their misbehaviour and violation of protocols. These are people’s parents; their children are not oblivious of these gross misconduct; it’s adverse effect will continue to tell on the society. Cases abound of certain individuals who went to prison on fraudulent acts whose children are still being prosecuted today on similar crimes. We must be sincere about our Christian faith. If we rubbish it our children will not value it. If we destroy our politics and culture God will not build it for us. Thus, let us learn the way of righteousness and holiness.

Simeon was equally a devout man.  This means he was pious and devoted. He was not in the class of those who will come to the Church once in a year – that is, at New Year Eve; he was not in the class of those who are not devoted, who handle their faith with levity and take their gifts for granted. On the other hand, Anna also was a devoted woman, the Bible says in Luke 2:37 she never left the temple, she worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. We may not sleep in the temple but let us express sincere devotion and faith; let us ensure we fulfill the holy days of obligations and our obligation towards prayer, renunciation and alms giving. Let us teach our children to do the same.

More so, in the Prophecy of Simeon, the parents were told that the child was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, he would be a sign of contradiction and a sword shall pierce her soul because of her child. With this information in mind Mary did not begin to influence the destiny of the child. She was not out to choose a vocation without such suffering for him; neither was she carving a path that soothes her for the son’s destiny. Today, when our children possess certain gifts and talents many parents tend to disallow them, when they express inclination towards music; we tend to force them to study medicine; when they express faith towards being a lawyer or teacher we often want them to fulfil other vocations. Today, some parents want to marry their choice of wife or husband for their children; some organize partners for their children even without previous knowledge of both parties. The resultant effects of such choices are there in the society today. Beloved, we must learn to guide our children and not determine their destiny. God wants to raise men and women to fulfill the purpose for which He created them not to fulfil the appetite of their parents.

Lastly, for us children there is a reward for all we do. In the first reading the Lord told  Abram that he would be rewarded for his faithfulness to God – leaving his own country for a distant and unknown land. The Lord rewarded him not only with a son but also making a descendant out of him. Beloved, the Lord rewards those who keep his word. We must learn to be obedient even to our parents. If we neglect their right instruction we shall end up in destruction.  The bible says honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long. Beloved, longevity is tied to this rule; we must abide by it, for God fulfills his promises. Today’s psalm is a quick reminder that God fulfills his promises. Therefore, if we want to enjoy his promises let us abide by his injunctions.

 

Fr. Evaristus Okeke:

Imitating the Holy Family

Today, we are given the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the model for our families. That is to say, 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.

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.

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, that the peace of Christ will dwell with them. Today, let us resolve to be more committed to our responsibility in family. This could be our first resolution for the New Year because its effect is far-reaching and all-encompassing. God Bless You!

 

Fr. Paul Oredipe:  

PRIORITY OF FAMILY LIFE –  Sacrificial Love and Respect   

Within few days after the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas we celebrate today the feast of the Holy Family – the Family of Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus. 

Among other things, the feast of today reminds us that the child who was God grew up as a member of a human family.  Even though Jesus did not have a biological father, he was born into a human family – one with father, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins just like ours.  In order to become fully man, God himself needed a family.  The Messiah began his redemptive task in the bosom of a simple, ordinary family.  

The first thing that Jesus sanctified with his presence was a home.  This feast is a reminder that Jesus came on earth to make a place for each one of us in God’s family – Church as a family. 

Today’s readings for the Feast of the Holy Family take up the tension between rights and obligations.  Our Scripture texts maintain that obligations have primacy over rights.  Hence the truly human, genuinely Christian priority is not so much what others can do for me but rather what I can do for others. 

What is really great about this feast day is that it is about something to which we can readily relate.  It is about the real stuff that you and I have to deal with every single day of the year, and so when we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we also celebrate our own families. 

 Historically, the Church has given us the Holy Family as a model for Christian living.  Yet, this model does not work for some of us because we reason, “Jesus was God, Mary was born without original sin, and Joseph had to be a saint to be able to deal with everything thrown at him.  How can we possibility be like them?” 

Reading through the Gospels we see that the Holy Family, in fact like any of our families if not even much more, had their share of troubles, difficulties and tragedies.  We forget that the three of them, including Jesus, were just as human as we are.  Theirs was a real family that experienced many of the same challenges each of us experience.  All family life is a mixture of joy and sadness – the greatest, the holiest family the world has ever known being no exception. 

Today’s readings offer us a chance to see things differently. 

A different Gospel story is told for each of the three years of the ABC Lectionary: year A- Flight into Egypt; year B- Presentation in the Temple; year C- Jesus lost and found. 

Each of these stories portrays the tension between the interior and exterior life, the interior peace of family life being menaced by the conflict between good and evil in the world at large.  In each of these three stories, the sword of conflict is brandished: the sword of Herod from which the Holy Family has to flee into Egypt; the “sword of sorrow” predicted by Simeon; and the sword of separation which wrung from Mary a cry of anguish: “Your father and I have sought you sorrowing.”  

The Gospels present Mary and Joseph as calmly meeting each challenge the baby’s life brought.  In Matthew this included Joseph’s considering whether or not he should send Mary away when he found she was pregnant, the journey with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi and the flight with the Mary and the child to Egypt to protect him from Herod. 

In Luke’s Gospel the challenges included the poverty of the stable, the prophecy of Simeon and, twelve years later, the loss of the boy Jesus in the Temple.  Later on, when Jesus begins his ministry or public life, Joseph is missing, probably dead, but Mary is present calmly telling Jesus that the bridegroom has run out of wine, calmly calling him to her while people were crowding about him, and calmly standing beneath the cross.  Check the gospels.  Mary stood beneath the cross.  She did not collapse.  She was not crumpled up in hysteria. 

The tranquility of the Holy Family is the result of their union with God.  The peace that Jesus brings is not the absence of war or external turmoil.  The peace the Lord brings is internal, spiritual.  When we are united to God, then we can deal with the chaos around us calmly.  When we lose our union with God, when we choose the chaos of sin, then the least provocation outside of us becomes an occasion of great grief and usually horrible over-reaction. 

Scriptures give us opposite examples of this in the infancy narratives.  Mary and Joseph were able to endure the chaos around them because they had peace within themselves.  King Herod lived in chaos and sin.  He could not bear the thought that a baby had been born who might someday be a threat to his throne so he had the innocents killed. 

What all these images tell us is that indeed the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is a model and example for all of us in our journey of life and faith.  As we celebrate this feast today we are called upon to examine and reflect on the importance and sacredness of the family as the basic unit of society and even of church life.  This feast provides an opportunity to reflect on the quality of our home and family life, in so far as they imitate the values of the Holy Family of Nazareth. 

Families are the natural and fundamental units upon which all societies are built.  It is the main school of all the social virtues.  It is the seed-bed of social life. For it is in the family that we learn to practice obedience, a concern for others, a sense of responsibility, understanding and mutual help, a loving co-ordination of essentially different characters.  The family is the first school of life and love, and each of us is marked indelibly by our own family and childhood experience.  Children become, later in life, what their homes have made them.  Indeed it has been proved that the health and progress of a society is measured by the health of its families.  In a sense, the work of creating continues in the family.  Parents are partners with God. 

From earliest times the Church has recognized that because the family is the primary human community, it must also be central to the life of the Church.  We learn about God through our human experience of love.  Family relationships are among the deepest we can form.  Jesus was able to call God “Abba” Father only because of His own loving relationship in His human nature with His father, Joseph.  It was through Joseph’s love and care that He had first learned what a father was.  In our case too, it is normally an experience of love that enables us to glimpse the meaning of the word “love” in God.  Indeed when we truly love, we also gain some idea of what we mean to God, and what He should mean to us. 

Our celebration today calls us to follow the model of the Holy Family.  It calls us to live the principles that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Colossians.  It calls us to stop focusing on our own interests and feelings and self-fulfillment, and focus on those who God has given to us as a family.  For any relationship of love to flourish, it requires the lovers to put each other’s good before their own. 

And every member of the family bears responsibility for the success of the entire family effort.  This is one great lesson we can learn from the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus.  Each of them had to give way thereby avoiding personal gratification and selfishness in order to fulfill their obligation as a family – community of life and love.  They all worked out their calling in mutual self-giving and love, even in the midst of those difficulties and trials. 

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph . . . in their struggles, fear and anguish recorded in the Gospel . . . is a model for our own families that the light of God shines in our midst as we confront the same tensions and crisis in our lives. 

“My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”.  We can all be a member of Jesus new family.  There is only one qualification:  to hear the word of God and do it.  God’s definitive word Jesus – word made flesh. 

Today we pray to the Holy Family in a very special way for each member of our families and in particular for the ones in most need.  As we do so, let us not forget that larger family of which we are members – the Universal Church, our Local Parish, that we may – in the words of St. Paul – let the words of Christ in all its richness find a home in us. 

Family life can be difficult at times.  What our readings tell us today is that if we do all things in light of faith, ultimately, peace is the reward.  The Feast of the Holy Family is important because it gives us the chance to once again review and renew our dedication to following the values that the “first family” – the Holy Family – gave us as an example. 

The heart of your family is the presence of Jesus Christ, present in each other as individuals and present in your family unit.  This is the one, true family value.  Our means for attaining and nourishing this value, our means for attaining and nourishing the presence of the Lord, are sacrificial love and respect. 

Let us entrust our family, let us entrust all the families of the world to divine Providence!  Through Mary, Queen of the Angels, may all the countries of the world live in Peace. 

The family that prays together not just says but stays happily together.  

May our family continue to grow in the love of the Lord throughout the new year. 

May the Holy Family continue to inspire us and make our own homes holy, happy and joyful especially in the New Year 2021.  Amen. 

  

Songs: 

My life time, I will give God my life time. 

My life time, I will give God my life time. 

If I give God my life time, He will take care of me. 

He will never ever let me down, I will give God my life time. 

My Family, I will give God my Family. 

My Family, I will give God my Family. 

If I give God my Family, He will take care of us. 

He will never ever let us down, I will give God my Family. 

   

I thank you, Lord You are holy and forever You are Lord.  

And forever You are Lord. 

I thank you, Lord You are holy and forever You are Lord. 

  

It shall be permanent, it shall be permanent, what the Lord has done for us, it shall be permanent. 

Alleluia to the Lord God, omnipotent reigneth. 

Alleluia, Alleluia to the Lord. 

Alleluia to the Lord God, omnipotent reigneth. 

Alleluia, Alleluia to the Lord. 

    

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.