Archive for the ‘Holy Family’ Category

Holy Family

January 1, 2011

Today is a unique day in the liturgical calendar.  First of all, today is the second day of the octave of Christmas.  Certain Feasts of the liturgical year are so important that the Church extends them over an eight-day period, known as an octave, so that we might have more time to celebrate and reflect upon the great mystery being celebrated.  Even after the octave has ended, the Christmas season itself extends until the Feast of Epiphany.  The secular world and the stores have already moved on from Christmas, but the Church continues to celebrate and rejoice at the Birth of Our Savior.  We prepared for four weeks of Advent to celebrate this great mystery of our Faith and one day is simply not long enough to contain our joy that our God has become man and dwelt among us.

Ordinarily December 26th is the Feast day of Saint Stephen the first martyr to shed his blood after the death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.  It might seem strange at first that the Church would place the feast day of a martyr on the second day of the octave of Christmas.  The Christmas season is a joy-filled time, yet the very day after we begin to celebrate, we are presented in the liturgy with the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the deacon who was stoned to death for professing his faith in Christ.  Part of the reason that the Church has given us the Feast of Saint Stephen the day after Christmas is to remind us that Our God became man in order to show us the way to God, yet that way is not always easy.  The fact that God became one of us and died to save us demands a response on our behalf.  The only response to the love that God shows us in sending His Son is for us to imitate that great love that Christ demonstrated upon the Cross for us: Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

I mentioned that ordinarily we celebrate December 26th as the Feast of Saint Stephen . . . this year is an exception because this year the 26th has fallen on a Sunday.  The first Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family; Feasts of the Lord always trump Feast days of the Saints, and so this year we forgo Saint Stephen’s Feast in order to celebrate the Holy Family.

Today’s Feast is an occasion for us to meditate upon the family life that Our Lord experienced as He lived with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.  Yesterday, we celebrated the fact that Our Lord was born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.  Yesterday we meditated upon how Our Lord was laid in a manger and how the shepherds came to adore Him.  Today, we focus on the fact that Our God came to earth and lived in a family.

There was more to Our Lord’s earthly life than what we know about in the Gospels.  The Gospels are by and large silent about what Our Lord’s life was like prior to His public ministry.  We know about the adoration of the magi and the flight to Egypt.  We know that at the age of 12 He remained behind in the Temple and His parents looked for Him for three days.  The next thing that is recorded in the Gospels is His appearance on the bank of the Jordan River several years later.

We do not know for certain what Our Lord did during those hidden years of His life.  We know that Saint Joseph was a carpenter and tradition tells us that Our Lord worked with Saint Joseph in that trade.  Our Lord was only on this earth for thirty-three short years and for thirty of those years He did not teach or publicly heal people: He lived a quiet life with His family.  Through Our Lord’s hidden years with His family in Nazareth He sanctified family life and labor.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of His Heavenly Father while on earth and for thirty years, God’s will for Him entailed the simple routine of life with Mary and Joseph.

Those years of Our Lord’s life that He spent working were not wasted years.  It’s not that Our Lord was sitting around waiting until He reached the age of the thirty to start what He came to do.  Those years that Our Lord spent working as a carpenter was part of God’s plan.  Those years of Our Lord’s life teach just as much as His parables and His miracles.  Through faithfully fulfilling our daily duties, we are fulfilling God’s plan for our lives.  The path to holiness is not about doing extraordinary things; holiness is attained by doing ordinary everyday things in an extraordinary way.  It is by conforming our lives and our wills to God’s will that we grow in sanctity.  Whatever our state in life, whatever our circumstances, we can become holy.  Each and every one of us is called to become a Saint.  We are not all called to be missionaries or martyrs, but we are all called to love God with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our strength; we are called to love God above everything and everyone all the time, everywhere.  God desires that we love Him the way that He loves us: totally, wholly, completely, without holding anything back.  Only when we put God first in our lives will we find our hearts deepest longing.  Let us strive to do all that we do out of love for God and for His greater glory and honor.

 

Holy Family 2009

December 31, 2009

Outside of this morning’s Gospel reading, we do not know much about the early life of Our Lord.  The Gospels tell us about His birth; Saint Luke records in his Gospel this incident, when Mary and Saint Joseph found the child in the temple, which happened when Jesus was twelve years old; the next thing that we know of Him is that He began His public ministry when He was about thirty years old.

The silence of the Gospel concerning Jesus’ hidden life tells us that Jesus lived a normal life with His family in Nazareth.  Tradition holds that He was a carpenter, like His foster-father Saint Joseph.  He worked diligently and skillfully with His hands.  By working with His hands He sanctified work.  When we work, we can unite our work to that of Jesus.  We can all imitate the example of the Holy Family by faithfully fulfilling our daily duties.  Whenever we begin a project or start a chore, we can prayerfully offer it to the Lord.  By doing our work willingly, for the love of God, we transform our work into a prayer.  If we form the habit of consecrating our work to God, we will pray always as Saint Paul tells us to.  Our work has to get done one way or another.  Complaining about it or performing the work begrudgingly doesn’t do anything but make us feel worse.  When we offer the work to God as a prayer, the work gets done and we grow closer to God.

We are all called to imitate the virtues practiced by the Holy Family; we are all called to be Saints.  We can easily be tempted to think that if we only lived in different circumstances, then we would be to be a Saint.  One doesn’t have to fly to a monastery in order to become holy.  One doesn’t have to do extraordinary things in order to attain the heights of sanctity; to grow in holiness, we only have to do all that we do out of love.  The Church gives us the Feast we celebrate today, the Feast of the Holy Family, in order to call our attention to that fact that family life is holy.  I am called to be holy in whatever station in life I am in.  I am called to love God regardless of any difficulties.  In fact, the more difficult our live is, the more we stand in need of God’s grace.

By doing each and every action out of love, we can grow in holiness.  Mothers, think of the tenderness and the love which the Blessed Mother had for her Son and for her spouse, Saint Joseph.  Meditate upon the love that she had in her heart as she carried out her daily duties.  Imitate that love.  Ask Our Lady to fill your heart with all the motherly love of her Immaculate Heart.

Fathers, meditate upon the strong and silent witness that Saint Joseph gives to us in Scripture; He faithfully fulfilled God’s will in all things.  He loved his family and provided for them.  He protected them and cherished them.  He was never harsh, but always the most loving of fathers.  Pray to Saint Joseph that you will love your family as he loved the Holy Family.  Pray to him in order to obtain the grace to be a good example for your families.

It is good for us to meditate upon the Christ-child, Whose birth we are still celebrating in this octave of Christmas.  As an infant, He was totally dependent upon Mary and Saint Joseph for everything.  In this morning’s Gospel we hear that “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”  The One through Whom and for Whom all things were made, subjected Himself to human parents.

The Holy Family is an important Feast day, especially in our own day and age when the family is under such fierce attack.  Our society wants to bring into question what it means to be a family.  From the beginning, God created man and woman to come together as one flesh.  Jesus Christ reaffirmed that family life is sacred: What God has joined no one must divide.

It is not surprising that the family is under attack.  The family is meant to be an image of God.  From all eternity, God existed as a Community of Persons.  When God made man in His image and likeness, He made man to live in community.  It was not good for the man to be alone, so God made him a helpmate: a wife.  Christ raised the union of husband and wife to the dignity of a Sacrament.  Saint Paul taught us that Christian marriage is an image of the love that Christ has for the Church.  Husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the Church: and Christ died for the Church.

The Devil hates God and he hates the Church.  The Devil hates human beings because we are made in God’s image and he hates marriage because it is a reflection of the love that Christ has for the Church.  The Devil will do all in his power to destroy souls and to destroy marriage.

The way to fight back, of course, is through prayer.  There is a saying that you have probably heard: the family that prays together, stays together.  This is not just a cute saying; it is very true.  Sin divides.  Conversely, the closer we are to God, the closer we will be to one another.

Let us entrust ourselves, and our families, to the care and protection of the Holy Family this Feast day.  May the love that was lived by the Holy Family in Nazareth inspire us to greater love within our own families.  May the Lord draw families closer together and closer to Himself.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph we love you save souls; save our families and all families.  Amen.