FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph ( C )
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 | Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 | Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 | Luke 2:41-52
The best of all Christmas presents is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. For this reason, it is most appropriate that we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph during the Christmas season. This feast provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon the gift and importance of our relationships with our mother, father, brothers, sisters, spouse, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Sarah's old father was very sick, and sent her away for medicine, busy hanging out with friends, she had been unwilling to go, and made up a lie, saying that the drug store had run out of stock of that pill. The old man was dying when Sarah arrived, but he said to her, “My princess, your father suffers great pain for want of that medicine.” Sarah started searching, in great distress, for the medicine, but it was too late. On her return her old father was almost gone. He could only say to the weeping girl, “Love God, and always speak the truth; for the eye of God is always upon you. Now kiss me once more, and farewell.” Through all her life afterward, Sarah often had a heartache over that act of falsehood and disobedience to her dying father. It takes more than a shower to wash away the memory of Sarah's sin.
The words, “Honor your father and your mother,” mean three things—always do what they bid you, always treat them lovingly, and take care of them when they are sick and grown old. Although this commandment seems pretty straight forward, it should be noted that this Divine rule comes with a lot of promises. In our First Reading, Sirach called for obedience to the parents with the aim of securing God’s lasting blessing for the children. He teaches that honoring our parents atones for sins, preserves us from sin, stores up riches, blesses us with children, and obtains us long life. Some of us have a great relationship with their parents, while others find it to be one of the most difficult challenges they face. It is needless to say that some things will never change — Mom might still offer her unsolicited opinions on our weight, hair, outfit of the day and choice of partner and Dad might still only start a conversation if it has to do with our car or career choices. No one is perfect, including our parents. They are flawed and have at times let us down. More often than not, you feel like you are not good enough for them. Despite of this, we must honor them even when we think they are wrong. We honor them not because they are always right but because they have more experiences of being wrong. The key is to love the best parts of your parents and learn to accept the rest. This isn’t going to be easy but God will honor your efforts. The way we relate to our parents as children reflects how we will relate to God as adults. Learning to honor, obey and submit to our parents is a great preparation for learning to honor, obey and submit to God.
Once there was a police officer named Mauro who found an eight year old Angelito loitering in the city at night. Concerned about the plight of the child, he immediately approached him to ask, "Why are you hanging around here at this hour? Do you want me to accompany you to your home? What's your name?" The boy answered timidly, "Freaking Idiot". "What's the name of your Papa?" Mauro asked. "Satan!" The boy innocently answered. "Who's your Mama?" Mauro followed up. "Witch!" The boy replied. Mauro unbelievingly exclaimed, "Are you kidding me? I am bringing you now to your house! Can you tell me where's your residence?" The boy answered, "I live in hell." Puzzled with the boy's statements, he accompanied the boy to the nearby village to search for the boy's residence. After a few paces, a woman approached them shouting, "HEY, YOU FREAKING IDIOT, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?" A man came out of the shack and groaned, "CAN YOU JUST SHUT UP? I'M TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP HERE, YOU WITCH! " The woman answered back, "SATAN! WHY DON'T YOU GET UP AND PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE?" The man replied, "I'M OUTTA THIS HELL!"
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, describes the behavior of those who belong to God's family in words that are inspiring and heart-warming. Members of God’s family are people of peace and gratitude who treat one another with the same love God has shown them. Spouses, children and parents must show care for one another and think about each other's well-being. Wives were to accept the husband’s authority as the household head. Husbands were placed under the corresponding Christian obligation to love their wives and never use their domestic authority in an abusive manner. Children were called to obey the parents, also as their Christian duty. Members of a holy family: responsible father, patient mother, and obedient child. Ang mga kalahok ng la sagrada familia: responsableng tatay, matiising nanay, at masunuring anak. These domestic instructions show the author’s clear understanding that authority in the Christian household serves the sole purpose of ensuring each of the family members care for one another and think about each other's well-being. It is to ensure that each family member treats one another with the same love God has shown them. Only when used for that purpose, should such authority should be obeyed.
Grandma Marietta took her four-year-old granddaughter Zia to “big church” for the first time. She sat quietly taking in every aspect of the Holy Mass and her attentive curiosity stayed in check until the Post-Comunion Prayer. Fr. Daniel, the parish priest said, “We thank You, Lord, for Your presence.” The little girl’s eyes flew open and she whispered to her grandmother, “Wowa, we’re gonna get presents!”
Mary and Joseph have raised Jesus for 12 years so it is no surprise that Mary would be in a panic when she discovers that Jesus is not with the group of travelers. With great anxiety she and Joseph search for him. Three days later the one who was lost has been found. Mary’s first words are, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Mary and Joseph try to bring Jesus back into the small family circle when they find him, but Jesus rejects this. “Why were you looking for me?” he asks. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph don’t understand this comment. Notice the contrast between “your father” in verse 48 and “my Father” in verse 49. Mary says, “Your father and I have been searching for you.” Jesus replies, “I had to be in my Father’s house.” Jesus’ response signals a break in his relationship with his parents. Not a sinful break, but rather an appropriate break for Christ as the Son of God. During this time, Jesus will begin to show his independence from them (cf. John 2:4). It was at the age of 12 that young Jewish men began their formal training in the synagogue, were received into Judaism as a “son of the law” and were expected to begin strict obedience to the law at this age. Jesus was aware of who he was and he had his priorities right. He knew he had to honor his father and mother. But he also had to do what his Father in heaven wanted him to do. Authentic growth almost always involves letting go. Jesus has moved from Mary and Joseph’s home to the Father’s home. This is not a rejection of his earthly parents but an re-prioritizing of relationships. For us, it means examining and re-prioritizing the values, beliefs, and relationships that establish our identity and give our life meaning and significance. Growing up spiritually involves leaving our comfort zone, letting go of what is safe and familiar, and moving to a bigger place, to engage in our Heavenly Father's business. Today’s gospel is a story about growing up but it is not Jesus’ growing up. It is about Mary and Joseph growing up. It is about you and me growing up. Growing up is not about how old we are. It is really about moving into deeper and more authentic relationships with God, our world, each other, and ourselves. So we wonder what are the little homes in which we live? How have they bound up our life, stifled our growth, and kept us from the Father’s home? What might we have to leave behind in order to grow up and move to a better place? These can be hard questions, painful questions. Ultimately, however, they are questions rooted on love.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum