Holy Family of the Year C
Sir 3:2-7, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:41-52
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The Church established the feast of the Holy Family in 1921 to show us the importance of family life and the example of the Holy Family. Jesus himself showed us the importance of family life through his life on earth. He spent three years preaching the good news of salvation - while he had spent thirty years - ten times longer - to live in the family with his mother and foster-father, in order to practice virtue. According to God’s providential care, the Virgin Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Savior. Joseph was chosen to be his foster-father to take care of the Holy Family.
The Holy Family lived in the atmosphere of harmony and holiness according to the wise counsels from the book of Sirach regarding different obligations and responsibilities of the father, mother and son. According to the Gospel of Luke, every year the Holy Family went up to Jerusalem to pray and worship at the Passover (Lk 2:41). Returning to Nazareth, the Gospel tells us: Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man (Lk 2:52). Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians gives us some advice on Christian living by putting ourselves with: mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and love (Col 3:12-13).
In the family, children are to be taken care of in a special way. Parents need to invest in children even before birth. Children are to be conceived out of love between husband and wife consecrated in the sacrament of matrimony, not as a matter of chance. A mother needs to invest in her child since conception by avoiding alcohol and drugs, harmful to the fetus, and eating and sleeping properly. Even distress and sadness might have negative impact on the fetus.
In ancient times, Joseph and Mary protected Jesus by taking him to flee to Egypt at night to avoid the massacre by Herod. In our days, children need to be protected from physical, mental and spiritual harm. Children need to be protected from vices in society such as drugs, pornography and addiction. Children need to be protected from occasion to sin. Subscribing to pornographic stations and telling children to avoid pornography is contradictory. How can parents prevent children from watching them?
Young people are often idealistic and they yield to reason. If parents say what is right and reasonable, children will listen. Parents need to explain to children why they are not permitted to do certain things. To explain to children that addiction to drugs is harmful to physical and mental health and makes their loved ones suffer. If children know their sport, movie and music idols have died of diseases of the times because of addictions, they would watch out. If they know that addiction to pornography would make their mind wonder around, unable to rise up to care for self and their future, they would be careful.
God seldom does extraordinary things. A certain woman asked a certain priest to celebrate a mass for her intention so that she may have a catholic daughter-in-law. Of course, the priest said mass for her intention. However, the mother must be aware that if she wants to have her son to marry somebody of the same faith, she has to offer opportunities for her son to go to church, to associate with church organizations of the same faith so that her son can meet a person of the same faith. Children need to be taught how to be a human person, a filial child, a responsible citizen and a pious catholic. Children need to be educated physically, mentally and morally as to attain total and lasting happiness. Total happiness is physical, mental and spiritual happiness. Lasting happiness is happiness in this life and the next.
A good number of parents are gentle and pious, yet do not have opportunity or time to read the daily news. Therefore they are not aware of the opposite side of each way of education or way of life and do not know how to educate their children. To compensate for that, parents need to attend workshops and talks or read good books on children education. The ways parents teach their children, should be in harmony. If a father teaches a way, and a mother teaches the other way, children, especially younger ones would be confused. Catholics keep the precepts of the Church where they reside. In the United States, realizing the importance of religious instruction, the American bishops make religious education the third precept of the Church when they wrote: To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to be confirmed, and then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ. To maintain and develop family happiness, parents need to put into practice those activities:
Eat together. In societies developed and advanced in technology and science, families have fewer opportunities to eat together due to different work schedules. However, families can still arrange to eat together at least a few times a week. Eating together can help parents recognize signs of change in attitude and behavior of their children such as why children are locked up in them, why they look sad, talk less? Recognizing those signs in children can help parents help their children cope with possible problems. During meals, parents can tell children to follow good examples and avoid bad examples happening in neighborhood or newspaper.
Pray together. The Catholic family needs to make arrangement so that they can go to church to worship and pray together at home at least a few times a week. If they cannot pray at length, they can pray short prayers before going to bed, asking the Lord to send his angel to watch over the family at night. Bringing God with the family when they go to vacation so that God can travel with the family should be a pious practice of the Catholic family.
Form family tradition. On New Year days, birthdays or anniversary days of each family member, they need to be present to celebrate, to give thanks to God and to wish one another joy and happiness. Survey show families that often eat and pray together, stay together or at least can avoid breakdowns.
Prayer for the happiness of family children:
Oh, Infant Jesus.
You came to live in the Holy Family with Mary, your Mother
and Joseph, your foster-father to show the importance of family life.
We ask you to send your angel to keep, protect and safeguard
our families and our children and grandchildren from all harm.
Teach each member of our family to live
according to the model of the Holy family.
We ask you to establish your sovereignty over our family. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong