Two thirds of North American families do not eat their meals together. Of the third of those who do, 50% are watching TV during the meal. The average child over 8 watches three and a half hours of TV daily, largely because the tired parents use the TV as a baby sitter at the end of a long day. (Economic Policy Institute).
The Feast of the Holy Family is not as old as one might think. Its origins are found only in the seventeenth century. Before then there was little need to offer the Holy Family as a model, for family life was largely in a healthy condition. But then came the Industrial Age and the birth of cities. Serious problems appeared on the family horizon. Strategist that she is, the Church looked about for a counterforce. Cleverly she hit upon devotion to the Holy Family.
And now in XXI century we are living in a time when the family is regularly, permanently destroyed and jeopardized. Since Jean Jacque Rousseau and French Enlightenment, the institution of family is denied, neglected, destroyed and the effects are more and more visible, more and more frightening … Let us simply see our families and ask ourselves one question: "How far away is my family from the Holy Family of Nazareth?"
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. In our natural attitude, we are tempted to look at the Holy Family as an ideal we can not realize in our families. But, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had their share of struggles. The Holy Family conquered their struggles through their faith-life. This must be the primary concern of our families.
The readings for this Sunday present some aspects of a Christian home. The first reading from Sirach says that children need to respect their parents. At first it refers to young children as it notes that mothers and fathers have their authority from God. Then it refers to older children when it says that children should take care of their parents when they age .Little children learn respect for their parents from the respect they see their parents giving each other and the respect their parents have for their grandparents. I have always believed that the way you treat your parents will be the way your children will treat you. If your relations with your parents are motivated by respect and love, and are evident in your kindness to them, your children will have learned this aspect of Christianity and will treat you the same way as your years mount.
The second reading deals with the interrelationships of the family. Paul tells the Colossians and us to deal with each other out of kindness, to be patient with each other, to forgive each other continually, not to let out pride determine what we say and do to each other. If we strive to live this way, than as a family we can pray together not just in Church, but in every aspect of our lives. "Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord." Paul goes on to mention the roles of a family in his epoch. At that time the equality of women was not recognized. In the
women were seen as property that needed to be protected by their fathers
ortheir husbands. The respect given to a woman was different from that given to
a man. That's why we have the phrase, wives be submissive to your husbands.
Closely followed by husbands love your wives. The heart of this reading is that
husbands and wives must respect each other. This same line of thought continues
with children being told to respect their parents, and parents being told not
to nag, to continually find fault, with their children.
But they did not understand what he said to them”.
Mary and Joseph didn’t understand much about what was going on in their life since the visit of the Archangel Gabriel. Since the moment of the Annunciation, followed by the nativity of Christ in a very strange and unusual environment, the threat from King Herod, their hasty escape into Egypt, their new life in a strange country, and then finally their move back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph must have been very confused. All of these events must have been for them a kind of surprise and a big shock, as well as moments of constant questioning: “What the heck is going on with our life?”
Certainly, all those circumstances could have been a cause of mutual frustration and misunderstanding. All this could cause quarrels and mutual criticisms, grudges, resentments and bitterness. This Family was really going through very serious difficulties in their life. And yet they didn’t finish in a disaster, in a divorce, in any kind of bitterness and mutual accusations. It was rather the opposite - a strengthening and intensification of their mutual love, mutual understanding and closeness in their family life. Despite of all the difficulties and problems, despite the fact that they were a very poor family, without means and without a future (from the human point of view), despite the fact that they were living a very basic and austere life, they didn’t end up in resentment and mutual hostility. Why? It was certainly because of the fact that Mary and Joseph were people of constant prayer and deep faith, but also because of the fact that Jesus was constantly with them. They were living in the constant presence of Jesus. Can you imagine what could happen with and in our families if we allowed Jesus to be present in our daily life?
Today’s Feast of the Holy Family shows us that faith and prayer have to be the most important elements of our family life. Our families are in trouble; our contemporary families are in deep jeopardy just because we do not allow Jesus to be present in them. Our faith, prayer, and the presence of Jesus in our families is restricted or limited to the scarce moments of Sunday Mass, or perhaps even less.
Prayer is supposed to become our daily companion and the source of answers for our questions: how to solve the problems, how to be a good father and good mother, a good husband and a good wife.
If faith and prayer are present in our homes, if Christ is present in our families, we can face the most difficult moments and the most challenging situations in our life and be sure that we will stay united and victorious throughout all harsh and ruthless moments of contemporary life. Where Christ is, there will be mutual understanding, love, strength and building up of our family life. Our family then, following the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth, will truly become the Family of God..
And this is exactly what we, the pastors of this parish, wish sincerely to all FAMILIES today on the Feast of the Holy Family , the patron of our Parish: My OUR parish be composed of Holy Families, following the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.