FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (A)
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 | Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 | Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 | Matthew 2:13-15, 19-2
Christmas is the time of the year that we gather with our families to exchange greetings and gifts, play party games, and feast on special holiday meals. As the holiday station ID of a broadcast giant being bullied over its franchise renewal says, "Pinag-isa tayo ng Diyos at pag-ibig.
May iisang puso at iisang tinig. Forever, forever, family is forever!" Family is everything around the holiday season. 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.
Once there were two brothers, Joel and James, who shared a field and a mill. Each night they divided evenly the grain they had ground together during the day. Now as it happened, Joel, one of the siblings lived alone; James, the other sibling, had a wife and a large family. One day, Joel thought to himself: "It isn’t really fair we divide the grain evenly. I only have myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed." So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his James' granary to see that he was never without. But James, the married brother, said to himself one day, "It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he is old?" So every night he took some of his grain to his brother’s granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning. Then one night Joel and James met each other halfway between their two houses, suddenly realized what had been happening, and embraced each other in love.
The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us as a model for our families. We call them “The Holy Family” but that does not mean that they did not have problems. Just as every family has to face problems and overcome them, the Holy Family also had to carry crosses. In our Gospel, Herod felt that Jesus was a big threat to his kingship. He thought that the best way to remedy this was to look for Jesus and kill him. Because of this, Jesus as well as Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt. God tells Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod. They had to escape to Egypt as refugees because Jesus’ life was in danger due to Herod, in much the same way as refugees from war-torn countries are now entering many western countries today. What kept the Holy Family together and sane throughout all of these trials? The answer is Love for each other and God. What holds our families together also in times of difficulty is love and forgiveness. If ever our families fail in any way, it is because of a lack of love on someone’s part. Whenever our families are successful, it is because they are places of love. "Pinag-isa tayo ng Diyos at pag-ibig. May iisang puso at iisang tinig. Forever, forever, family is forever!" Just as the holy family survived all its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray that our families will conquer all difficulties through love for each other and faith in God:
God our Father,
we first encounter you in the love of our families,
and we give thanks for those who have loved us.
Yet no earthly family is perfect.
All need your grace.
We pray especially for struggling families:
for single-parent households,
for absent parents and their children,
for grandparents raising grandchildren,
for foster parents and for orphans,
and for those with no one left to care for them.
Bring us into your one eternal family,
a family filled with your peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum