HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY; YEAR C
1ST READING: 1 SAMUEL 1:20- 22, 24- 28
2ND READING: 1 JOHN 3: 1-2, 21 -24
GOSPEL: LUKE 2:41- 52
THEME: THE HOLY FAMILY: OUR MODEL
Beloved in Christ, Christmas is a family time. It is a period where families are reunited again and are offered the privilege and grace of spending much time together; to enjoy each other’s company, to relax and have special family meal together. This celebration acknowledges the fact that God is the one who created the institution of the family despite its shortcomings. The Church with this in mind invites us this morning to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family (the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph); reminding us of our individual and collective responsibilities as family members.
Historically, the feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. He fixed it for the Sunday within the Octave of Epiphany. But in the calendar promulgated in 1969, it was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas; between Christmas and New Year’s Day, or where there is no Sunday within the Octave, it is held on 30th December.
Dearly beloved, the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth tells us that God has not just come to be born into the world but into a human family to stress all the more his identification with our humanity. This celebration thus, proposes for us the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families and for domestic life in general. We are therefore obliged as Christians to promote the Holy Family as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit.
Beloved in Christ, though we call them “The Holy Family” it does not mean that they did not encounter challenges ; well they did and like every family they had to overcome them. Some of their challenges included; the mother being a virgin, the father not being the biological father of the child and a lack of understanding of the mission of the child. But in spite of these challenges, it was love for God and for each other that kept them together. It is therefore sad to observe that families today don’t spend quality time together.
This challenge brings to mind a story about a solicitor who lived a considerable distance from her elderly father. Months had passed since they had been together and when her father called to ask when she might visit; the daughter detailed a list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to him; e.g.,court schedule, meetings, research, etc., etc. At the end of the recitation, the father asked, ‘when I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?’. The daugther’s response was immediate, ‘Dad, I can’t believe you’d ask that! Of course, I’ll come!”. To which the father replied, “Good”. Forget the funeral and come; I need you more now than I will then.
My dear Christ’s Faithful, spending time with the family is a way of showing our family that we love them. For when we love our family, we would want to sacrifice ourselves by spending time with them, especially when we realize that by not spending time with them we deprive them of our love and it hurts them.
This feast also invites children to be responsible and respectful to their parents. Interestingly, I once heard a child telling his parents; it is not me who is looking for parents. ‘It’s you who were looking for a child’, which is true but is not an excuse to be naughty and disrespectful; for a child is God’s gift to a parent. Hence, as a gift comes the responsibility to be a good gift, so as to give happiness to the recipient. We therefore need to seize this opportunity to thank God for all the graces and blessings our families enjoy.
Beloved in Christ, in the words of Pope John Paul II, this celebration is to remind parents that marriage is a vocation from God and that there is nothing more important for parents than being a good father and a good mother. Consequently, there is the need to revere and protect your family and your family life, for the family is the primary field of Christian action.
The Holy Family is holy because God is present in it and also it is responsive to the demands of the Word of God. The measure of the Holy Family is not found in what does- or does not- happen to its members. The Holy Family then is one that demonstrates a certain grace and confidence when faced with the events of daily living. In view of this, St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home, a “family church” and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit.
From the aforesaid, the 1st reading presents to us the exemplary and God fearing family of Hannah, Elkanah and Samuel; a family that trusted God and lived their life fulfilling His Will. We are called to be Holy despite all our failures and difficulties, through the living out of God’s Word in the midst of our family. The truth is, though we cannot control some of the things that happens to us, we can however choose how to respond to the unexpected in our lives; in ways that promote faith, tranquility, strength and courage. This then is the context that makes the Gospel of today meaningful; for it presents to us a moment of tension in the Holy Family with the loss of the Child Jesus and the three day search for Him.
Beloved in Christ, it is worthy to note that during this period of family crisis, nobody blamed the other as the cause of the problem. This tells us that family crisis are resolved when we come together and stick together and not by blaming each other. This feast should also open our eyes to the dangers and the challenges that threaten the stability of the family today as the nucleus of the society. These problems include; the issues of divorce, abortion, contraceptives, homosexuality, single parenting, etc., etc.
We are thus challenged to stand up and defend the institution of the family, for without it there can be no society. We therefore need to protect the dignity and sanctity of this noble institution against these attacks and threats. May the celebration of the feast of the Holy Family inflame in us a sincere love and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of our own families and may no trial or challenge deny our families of true love, faithfulness and unity as we take the Holy Family of Nazareth as our true model of family and domestic life.