Sunday, December 31, 2017
Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
When Jesus reveals the first person of the Trinity, He reveals Him as Father. He reveals Himself as Son. He refers to the Church as His bride. We are referred to as adopted sons and daughters of God our Father, as brothers and sisters in Christ. These are not hallmark sentiments, but a reality that God makes clear. The family matters. How much so?
In the first two readings we hear of the person of Abraham. God promises to make of him a people for Himself. From this unlikely source ( a childless couple), He will raise up a single family of Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac. That family would grow into a clan and then a nation. It all starts with God intervention in one family. When the second person of the Trinity comes into the world, He is placed by the Father's will into a family. The Father gives the responsibility of raising the Messiah to Mary and Joseph. Why? Although Jesus is indeed fully God, he is also fully human. That means his human brain and body needed to develop and grow as well. This precious task is entrusted to Mary and Joseph. I am willing to bet if we were able to see the internal workings of this holy family, we wold not see Joseph saying to either Mary or Jesus, "It's your job to make me happy!" This would not have been out of line for the times in which the holy family arose. Neither to I think we would have Mary tell Joseph or Jesus, "It is your job to make me happy!" Nor can I imagine Jesus saying to his parents, "It is you job to make me happy!". What binds the person of the holy family is the same thing that binds the persons of the Trinity:self-giving love.
It is that self-giving love that binds our families as well. The stronger this love, the stronger the family. The stronger the family, the stronger every institution to which that family belongs becomes. It is for this reason that the Church refers to the family as the domestic church. It is in these incubators of faith that the husband and wife and their children grow in love, grow in faith, and grow in the image and likeness of God. What I am to a parish, you parents are within your family. The healthier our families, the healthier our parish.
Mind you, we are not the only people that get how key the family is. I am currently reading the "Lion of Munster". Munster is a city in Germany and lion in question is a man, a bishop, named Clemens Von Galen. He was the bishop of Munster as Hitler rose to power and through WWII. Bp. Von Galen had to do battle with the 3rd Reich who insisted in putting NAZI propaganda in the Catholic classroom. He had to contend with the family-destroying Hitler Youth, who were part of the effort to take for the state the responsibility parents had in raising their children; even turning those children against their parents should their parents speak ill of the Reich. In fact, every totalitarian dictatorship or wanna-be dictatorship tries to appropriate for themselves the duties of the parents. Our secular society is no exception.
Our secular society attacks the family a regular basis. It has so redefined marriage and family life so as to render it irrelevant and sterile. It did this by divorcing the marital act (human sexuality) from the marital bond and turned it into a recreational activity. It threw in copious amounts of artificial birth control and pornography so as weaken the bonds all the more. Marriage and family life became the enemy to human happiness. Children, if one must have them at all, were props to make the parent look good. It permeates our entertainment and even advertisements (including children's programming) with an special dose of venom for dads, who are often portrayed as clueless, self-absorbed, and childish..if they are even present at all. This is not hyperbole! Witness what is happening in Japan, which is already in a demographic free-fall and which is worsening as the young men have become enamored with porn instead of relationships. It also is devastating Italy, France, Germany, Russia....and on and on. The devil is working overtime to destroy the family.
Mom and dad, you are the sentinel at the door. I could not imagine Mary and Joseph allowing something into their home that would hurt the child Jesus. Your job is not easy. It gets harder when you divorce yourself from the sacramental life of the Church. We need God's grace to live up to the great responsibility which we are given. To sacramentally starve ourselves endangers the essential mission of the family. Study after study paints a rather grim portrait of what happens when the parents are disengaged from the practice of the faith..particularly the dads. If the dad is disengaged from the faith, regardless of the devotion or lack thereof of the mom, the likelihood of the child embracing and living the faith is under 25%. If he is engaged, again regardless of the devotion of the mom, it rises to 65%...if both parents are engaged, it goes to 85%. How you parent matter!
This is why I am becoming very insistent that if a family has their children in any of our education programs or school, that regular practice of the faith, especially being at Sunday Mass, is a must. You will notice not so much a shift in policy as much as a upholding and enforcement of policy that for a child to be in our school as a registered parishioner means I see them and the family...including dad...on the weekends. If I as a pastor allow 'Catholic in name only', I cannot complain when parents shoot for 'Catholic in name only.' Like a good father, I have to shoot for what is best. The parents need to be here because of the task they have before God. I can ill afford to be okay with them not being given the tools to do their task. In fact, in the New Year, our parish is starting a program called 'New Wine' which is aimed at strengthening marriages. Strengthen the marriage, strengthen the family. If our parish is to flourish as it should, then it is on our interest to bolster marriage and family life and to actively against what would despoil the family and marriage.
Why? Because the point of this feast is not merely to look at the Holy Family as if it were a masterpiece in a museum, but to see in the Holy Family what we ourselves as followers of Christ are to become. We refer to the union of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as a HOLY family...not a good family...not a nice family...but a holy family. Hence the goal for our families is not be a good family, a nice family, a sports family, a rich family, a successful family. No, the goal is to have holy families. That takes God. As we move into 2018...let that be the goal for your family: to becomes holy family!