The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Loveā€”An Invitation of Participation of All Members in Family

Joke: A woman pulled her car over to the side of the road when she heard the police car’s siren. “How long have you been driving without a taillight,” demanded the officer. “Oh, no!” screamed the woman. She jumped out and ran to the back of the car. “Just calm down,” said the officer. “It’s not that serious.” “But wait ‘til my husband finds out!” “Where is he?” “He’s in the trailer that was hitched to the car!”

Just as the hitch that connected the car with the trailer, love is that hitch that connected all the members of the Holy Family to become the Holy Family that Saint Paul puts it beautifully in today’s second reading saying, “love, that is, the bond of perfection.” Why does the Church celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph during this octave of Christmas, even before the feast of the Epiphany? Perhaps, it emphasizes more the meaning of the perfect love that God has for his human beings. This perfect love cannot be fully understood without the context of the mystery of the Incarnation, Christmas. God truly entrusted his only beloved Son to humanity to take care, and love what made the family of human and divine becomes the Holy Family. How does it come about? All of today’s readings help us understand the answer to this question.

What are the criteria to be the Holy Family? In today’s first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, reminds us by saying, “Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them… Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children… Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.” To honor our parents is to cancel all our sins and to be blessed with many years in this life. When we obey our father, it does not only bring joy and peace to our father, but we also bring comfort to our mother. Therefore, one of the criteria to become a Holy Family is that we, children, are invited to honor our parents. This is also exactly one of the Ten Commandments that God asked Moses to deliver to us.

The next criteria for becoming the Holy Family is, as Saint Paul puts it in today’s second reading, “Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” Looking into the manger, let us experience the vast ocean of “holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” It is through heartfelt compassion that God sent his only beloved Son, God himself, lowered himself to vest on our human flesh to save us from damnation. In his humility, just as any other child, he depends completely to his parents’ kindness, gentleness and patience towards him. They all care and aware of each other presence in their midst. How would they learn to care and to be aware of each other presents in their midst if it’s not that both Mary and Joseph developed an intimate relationship with the Lord in their prayer life? This intimate relationship with the Lord helps Mary to willingly accept the invitation of the Lord to be the Mother of God by the power of the Holy Spirit; while Joseph willingly accepts the invitation of the Lord to be the husband of Mary who conceived a child in her womb not by him. Their saying yes to the message of an angel does not stop at saying yes, but they live it out.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew reminds us of the dream that Joseph had with an angel saying to him, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." Joseph, with no question and no doubt, rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. In the middle of the night, Joseph could respond to the angel by saying to her to wait until the morning, but he did not. He’s very sensitive and fully aware of the words of God. With deep faith and trust in the Lord, he acted upon what he heard even in the dream or in the middle of the night. Have you and I been sensitive and aware to the words of God while we hear the words of God every time we attend Mass? Have you and I had courage and strength to deliver what we heard and felt from the words of God or touched by the words of God into action? This is an important criteria to become the Holy Family that we are all invited to be sensitive and fully aware to the words of God. Not only to allow the words of God touched us through reading or listening, but also to allow the words of God to come alive in our actions.

The last criteria, perhaps, is to know, to own, and to live our responsibilities in our family. Saint Paul reminds us saying, reported in today’s second reading, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.” How would wives learn to be subordinate to their husbands when they lost interest in each other after so many years together? Both wife and husband are busy working for a living that they hardly have time for each other not talking about having time for their children? Some husbands, as the only income for the family, have to work hard that they find themselves nothing left for their wives and children after work. Children instead of understanding how difficult it is for their parents to work to make a living for the family that they should obey them and help them instead of giving attitude and going astray when they don’t get what they want. What might be lacking in our modern families that many families are struggling? Pope Francis identified three key issues when he talked about families. First: There is a lack of the family prays together. When is the last time you pray together as a family? If we have difficulty to pray together as a family, we might have problem to move on with the next stage that Pope Francis identified as with the family keeps the faith. “How do we keep our faith as a family?” the Pope asked. “Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?” And lastly, the family experiences joy. The Pope sent us a homework and invited each of us take time to answer: How are things when it comes to joy at home? Is there joy in your family? “Family,” the Pope said, “is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.” Is your family the salt of the earth and the light of the world?

 

Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen


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