HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY.
HOMILY THEME: THE KEY TO A HAPPY FAMILY
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
As member of the Matrimonial Tribunal in the Archdiocese of Manila for more than 18 years, I know how difficult it is to work in this special ministry. We were handling marriage nullity cases. This is never easy owing to the nature of the job. Everything here is almost always negative: failed marriages, hurting couples, painful family experiences, broken homes and confused and troubled children. And the number of marriage cases being filed is increasing. This is not to mention the vast percentage of failed marriages that are not submitted to the Tribunal for adjudication.
If this is happening in a Catholic country such as the Philippines where divorce is still not legalized, we just can imagine the picture in non- Catholic countries where divorce is already legalized. Personally, I consider divorce, failed marriages and broken homes as a sort of virus or plague that is rapidly spreading all over the world. Everybody is vulnerable to this virus. This is what makes so many people unhappy nowadays. What is the use of having a successful job and a large income when you have nobody to share, when everybody in your life is away? What is the use of a beautiful house when you live all alone?
A lot of people still look up to America as the fulfillment of their dreams and hope for a bright tomorrow. But we must realize that, though it may be a politically and economically strong country, yet internally, it is a society standing on shaky foundation. The reason is obvious: family life is severely ailing and is on the verge of extinction. This is the bitter fruit of the reign of the culture of death brought about by the plague of divorce, abortion, contraception, same sex “marriage”, sexual promiscuity and depravity and many other anti-life programs. And as Pope Saint John Paul II warned, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Against this bleak backdrop of society, the Church invites us all to look up to the example of the Holy Family. Of course, many of us will say, “Well, that’s great! Joseph was celibate, Mary is the Immaculate Virgin, and Jesus is the Son of God. That is an ideal family, a perfect family. My family is not. We just cannot be like them!”
My dear brothers and sisters, let us not forget that this is the Feast of the Holy Family. The Church purposely avoided using the term “Perfect Family” or “Ideal Family.” This is in order for us to avoid the temptation to look at the Holy Family as an unreachable ideal, something that is too good to be true; and so that we may not hide behind alibis and excuses not to pursue growth and holiness for our families.
The truth of the matter is that the Holy Family was not exempt from the harsh realities of life, from troubles and problems that beset our families today. Many families now are complaining about economic difficulties. But the Holy Family was in a far worse condition. Jesus was born in a stable, the place for animals. Imagine the crawling insects of various kinds and the foul odor. To protect him from the bitter cold, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and they laid him in a manger. There is nothing romantic about the whole situation.
Many families now undergo voluntary exile and are away from loved ones and homeland in order to secure a better future. The Holy Family also experienced being away from home, for they had to flee from the cruel king who wanted to kill the Child. Are we worried about not having enough income to support the family? But Mary was just an ordinary housewife and Joseph was a carpenter. They also had their share of struggles for survival.
The Holy Family, therefore, is being presented to us, not as a romantic ideal as in the movies, but as an inspiration for our families. The Holy Family conquered their struggles through their strong faith. The real test of faith is obedience to God’s will. This is very clear in the life of the Holy Family. Mary’s faith enabled her to accept God’s plan. Joseph’s faith made him strong to protect and provide for the family. Jesus, having emptied himself, had faith in the Father’s will and in his parents to care for him. The Gospel on the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple is a vivid illustration of such a strong faith in God and humble obedience to His commands.
Whatever is the situation we are in now, the example of the Holy Family gives us hope and inspiration in the struggles our families face each day. If Jesus, Mary and Joseph, though poor and simple, successfully overcame all challenges in life, our families too can be successful because we put our faith in God who is with us, and we are always ready to obey His will in our lives.
The readings for this Sunday give us very important lessons and reminders on to how to live as a Christian family. The Book of Sirach exhorts the children to respect and obey their parents, and when they grow old, to take care of them. In many modern societies, where the emphasis is more on material success than on family values, I wonder how many old parents are taken cared of by their children, instead of being sent to nursing homes. Blessed Mother Teresa said, “There is a terrible hunger for love.
We all experience that in our lives – the pain and loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”
Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds us to deal with each other out of kindness, to be patient with each other, to forgive and respect each other continually, and not to let our pride and selfishness erode our love for one another. In conclusion, the only sure formula for a happy and strong family is God: “Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord.” We may encounter the worst trials and difficulties in life, but as Saint Paul said: “If God is with us, who can be against us?” Let us entrust our families to the protection and guidance of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Then we hope that God will also welcome us into His Eternal Family of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422