YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY FAMILY
HOMILY THEME: BUILDING A HOLY FAMILY
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: We come from different families and our family backgrounds shaped us through the years. Jesus came from a family and we celebrate his family every first Sunday after Christmas.
As we celebrate the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, let us reflect on the sanctity of the family and the challenges of building a holy family. Obviously, there are so many definitions of family in the modern world and some of these definitions are a far cry from the traditional and Christian understanding of family. Broadly speaking a family is a group of people who are related to each other. The Church defines family as “A divinely instituted community of persons made of husband, wife, children and relatives open to life in love.” The second Vatican Council Fathers speak of the family as a domestic Church. The Church in Nigeria emphasises the role of family as the first school of virtue, the first school of evangelization, the first school of faith, and an indispensable pastoral collaborator.
In a special way we celebrate the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, popularly known as the Holy Family because they serve as a role model for Christian families and provide a portrait of how a Christian family should look like. Joseph cared for Mary during the period of her pregnancy even when he knew he was not responsible for her pregnancy; together, Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple for dedication; they had many difficult moments as a family. One of these challenging moments was Herod was threatening to kill the infant Jesus. Herod was determined to eliminate him and so they had to flee at night to Egypt for safety (Matthew 2:13-15). This must have been a tough experience for this young couple. This action of Joseph and Mary goes a long way to say that a child’s upbringing is a collaborative effort of parents.
Joseph loved Mary and Mary respected Joseph and the child Jesus was obedient to his parents. St. Paul wishes that all families imitate the love of Joseph and Mary and so the Apostle advises families: “Wives, be subject to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:19-21).
All families desire to be peaceful, loving and happy. However, in modern society there are common family challenges that can mitigate the flow of happiness and peace. Among these challenges are:
Financial Problems: This problem can come in various ways such as lack of sufficient money for the upkeep of the family; lack of transparency and openness about savings, income and investments; stinginess; reckless spending and lack of financial budgeting and planning. In traditional society, the man is responsible for all financial transactions, including the payment of bills for housing, clothes, fees, etc and the woman is responsible for all domestic chores.
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However, in modern society where many women are working, there is a paradigm shift as husband and wife share the bills and domestic chores according to the strength of each.
Leadership: The father is naturally the head of the house. St. Paul advises women to respect their husbands as they respect the Lord and to husbands, he says, “You’re your wives as Christ loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:24-25). Cases abound where fathers abdicate their responsibilities of caring for their families. A father is supposed to play the role of a shepherd or even pastor of his family, leading them in prayer and bringing them to the knowledge of the faith. Generally, husband and wife complement each other in the building their family.
Upbringing of Children: The Church says the “Primary role of parents is not just to pass genes unto their children, but also to bring them up in every aspect of life in the society.” These aspects of life include providing the children with adequate opportunity for civic and religious education. Some parents are willing to send their children to qualitative civic schools to obtain good education, but do not care much about the religious upbringing of their children.
Furthermore, there are children today who are passing through difficulties because they have lost their parents and are entrusted to foster parents. Some foster parents make good efforts to bring up these children well. In some family homes foster children are treated as slaves and as second-class children. I know of a 12 year old schoolgirl who is a foster child and unlike the other children in the house, she has to farm for people to get some money to pay her school fees.
Honouring Parents: Often we hear people say that Father and Mother took care of several children and years later, several children are unable to take care of Father and Mother. The book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) advises Children to honour their parents. These words from Sirach re-echo that of the commandment of God in the book of Exodus: “Honour your Father and Mother so that your days may be long in the land the Lord is giving you” (20:12). Honouring parents is making them feel loved and be close to them. Tim Challies, a commentator and blogger suggests the following practical ways to honour parents: by forgiving them for the mistakes they made in bringing us up, knowing that there are no perfect parents; seeking their wisdom; respecting them privately and publicly; speaking well of them whether they are alive or dead; and supporting them emotionally, physically and financially.
As we celebrate the Holy Family today, let us strive to build God-centred families where God takes precedence and where peace, love and happiness reign.
Holy Family Sunday, Year A/ Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.
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