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The Holy Family – December 27th – Octave – Christmas
Readings: Sir 3:2-7, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40.
Reading 1 (Sir 3:2-7, 12-14):
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
–a house raised in justice to you.
Reading II: RSV Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13 forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Gospel (Lk 2:22-40): Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.
I. THEME: The secret method to have a holy family.
Many of us saw and experienced the crisis of today family. We are facing many problems related to family, such as: to care for one’s old parent or to send them to nursing homes, euthanasia, divorce, separation, to marry or to stay single, birth control, abortion, children having children, children who skip school, run away, and don’t practice religion…
The holy family also had many problems like us: St. Joseph was thinking to secretly leave Mary to protect his righteousness; Mary vowed to keep her virginity and to serve God in the temple; Jesus stayed back in the temple without letting Joseph and Mary knowing of his decision; and when his parents finally found him in the temple, he asked them: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). Why could the holy family overcome these obstacles in their family? The simple answer is they listened and did God’s will, not their own wills.
The problems happened because of people’s selfishness, they only worried about themselves and didn’t care about others’ problem. They didn’t appreciate, thank for, and return favor to God and to their benefactors. They had no patience to forgive others as God and others had forgiven them. They forgot that if God and others also behaved like them, they shall not have a chance to live in this world.
There are many bad results from the family’s crisis. Since family is also the base of society and the Church, the family’s crisis also leads to crises in society and the Church. A practical example is the birth control leads to the imbalance of population in a nation. A statistic showed each family must have 2.2 children in order to keep the balance of population; but the European, North American, and some industrial nations didn’t have this ratio. The birth control is also the main reason for the scarcity of priests and religious brothers and sisters. If a family has only one or two children, it is very difficult for parent to offer their child to God!
Today readings supply us many ideas to meditate and to review our family’s situation. In the first reading, the author of Sirach advised children to care for their old parents, even though they were forgetful and couldn’t care for themselves. In the second reading, St. Paul listed out many virtues and necessary manners to protect the family’s happiness. In the Gospel, St. Luke reported the day St. Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple. A happy family must fear the Lord and carefully keep God’s law.
1/ Reading I: O son, help your father in his old age!
1.1/ The Fourth commandment: Honor your parent!
(1) God’s teaching: “O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him.”
(2) Human argument: “I am so busy. It is better for them to be in a nursing home because they shall have doctors and nurses to care for them around the clock. I shall come to visit them when I have time.” In reality, there are some nursing homes that didn’t change diapers for elders in the whole day; some didn’t care if they ate or not; some even beat them up. We can ask ourselves this question: If our parent who gave birth to us and sacrificed their whole life for us, we couldn’t have time and patience to care for them; why do we expect others to carefully care for them? Some important things we need to know that elders are easy to feel lonely and humiliated. They don’t need outside caring more than their children’s love. Many parents passed away lonely and in tears in nursing home.
(3) Things we should do: All members in family shall learn many new things when they care for their old parent. They shall recognize the fragile of life and know how to support each other. Brothers and sisters shall unite to share responsibilities. Young children learn how to share responsibilities with their parent; when they saw their parent were so tired to earn a living and to care for grandparents, they shall voluntarily share the heavy burden with their parent. This shall also help them to be more mature than children who have no opportunity to care for elders. The responsible children shall have experience to care for elders and they shall apply this experience for their parent.
1.2/ God’s blessings are bestowed on those who cared for their parent: The author of Sirach listed some of God’s blessings as follows:
(1) Your children shall treat you the same: “For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons.” A Vietnamese idiom states, “Next wave shall follow last wave.” Those who treated their parent with dignity shall be treated the same by their children. In opposition, those who badly treated their parent, shall be treated worse than that by their children.
(2) Your sins are forgiven, and blessings are given to you: “Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure… For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you.”
(3) Your prayer shall be heard by God: “Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays, he will be heard.”
(4) You shall have a long life: “Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother.” When one cared for his father, he also pleases his mother.
2/ Reading II: The necessary virtues and manners to have a happy family.
2.1/ The virtues we need to have:
(1) Charity: “And above all this put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The sacrament of Eucharist is the source of love; the family whose members frequently attend Mass and receive the Eucharist shall have God’s love. Only this kind of love shall be strong enough to wipe out discord and difference and to unite everyone together.
(2) Endurance and forgiveness: “Forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” All members of family should frequently receive the sacrament of Reconciliation because it is the way to learn and to practice two important virtues, endurance and forgiveness.
(3) Gratitude: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” Gratitude, first of all, is to thank God who prepares all things for humankind. Next is to thank our parent who gave birth, raised, educated and prayed for us. Lastly, we must be thankful to all who contributed to make our life more meaningful and flourished.
2.2/ The importance of God in family:
(1) God’s words: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.” To achieve this in family, parents need to learn to understand God’s Word first, because they can’t give to their children what they don’t have; and then they can organize a section to share and to practice Scripture in their family.
(2) Holy songs: “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This also reminds us to avoid listening to meaningless and romantic songs, watching comical programs and shows intended to despise God and to debase religious and moral values.
(3) Prayer: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Mother Theresa also reminds us: “Family who pray together shall stay together.”
2.3/ The manners to behave in family: All relationships demand to have both directions in order to have good results. St. Paul listed out two main relationships and their required manners.
(1) The relationship between husband and wife: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
(2) The relationship between father and son: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
3/ Gospel: The models of gratitude
3.1/ The Holy Family thanked God: St. Joseph and the Blessed Mary thanked God about the gift of family and above all the gift of life, Jesus. They came to the temple together to present their son to God as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” Though they were poor, they also offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
3.2/ Simeon thanked God: St. Luke gave a sketch of Simeon’s life as follows: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Inspired by the Spirit, he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
Simeon blessed them and said a prophecy to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
3.3/ The prophetess Anna thanked God: St. Luke briefly described Anna’s life as following: “Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must destroy the selfishness in our life because it is the source of all crises in our family. At the same time, we need to be generous to love and to care for others as God loves and cares for us.
– We need to frequently examine our conscience and make confession in order to recognize our weaknesses and sins. If we had courage to ask God for forgiveness and to be patient with us, we must also be ready to forgive the weaknesses and sins of others, and to be patient with them, because they are also human like us. Those who don’t frequently examine their conscience and make confession are easily to have the self-righteous attitude. They easily criticize, judge, condemn and expel others.
– We need to be humble to accept the fact that we aren’t wiser than God. If we want to be Christ’s disciples, we must: “forfeit our will, do God’s will and carry our daily cross to follow him.”
– We, of course, have freedom to follow our will; but at the same time, we must receive all bad results from our indifference and insult of God’s teachings.