Homily for Feast of the Holy Family, Cycle C

posted Dec 29, 2015, 2:53 PM by Church Office   [ updated Dec 29, 2015, 2:56 PM by Michelle Massung ]

Before I get started on my homily, do any of you know what holiday is celebrated in Europe, Canada and Australia today? Boxing Day.  It has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.  Tradition has it that sailors would put an empty wooden box on a ship and if they had a successful trip, sold the goods they carried and then returned safely, the sailors would put money into the box.  The box would then be given to the local priest and he would distribute the money to the poor.  As a result, we have poor boxes in our churches and the money is given to the poor.

            Now, let me focus on our Gospel from Luke 2:41-52. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.  What do we know about them as a family?  We know that it is a small family, consisting of Mary, Joseph and the little boy Jesus; two saints and the son of God.  They must have been holy, otherwise, why would the church celebrate this feast of the Holy Family today. However, what were they like as a regular or normal family?

            For example, was Mary a good cook, and a good housewife?  Could she sew and make clothes or did she let the laundry back up and get behind in her chores around the house?  We know that Joseph was a carpenter and he must have been a pretty good one to provide a living for his family.  Yet, was he helpful around the house or was he a couch potato after he was done working? And Jesus, did he help around the house? Did he clean his room when his parents asked him?  I doubt that he talked back, but did he always do things to help around the house?  Why is it important to ask these questions today?  Because nothing is said about them as a normal family, only a holy family. 

            Is there a correlation between being a Holy Family and being a family that gets along and shares in the chores around the house, a family that works together and still has time to spend time growing holy?  I think there is but what does it take for a family to be holy?  Let’s start with St. Joseph.  He is the spiritual leader of the family.  He is put into a very difficult situation when he first takes Mary as his wife.  She is pregnant and normally this would be a source of great disgrace to a man, yet the angel explains to him that she is pregnant via the Holy Spirit and not by another man and to proceed with his plan of marrying Mary.  He then has to travel to Bethlehem to register the family and while they are there, she gives birth. Can you imagine the stress he felt when he couldn’t find a room for them?  I am sure it must have been tremendous.  Then after the baby is born, he has to flee to Egypt to protect his family from the rampage of death caused by King Herod.  Again, he receives this message in a dream and does the will of the angel and God.  As Jesus’ step-father, he gives Jesus the example of doing God’s will by his actions, not just his words.

            Now let us focus on Mary.  She too is considered holy because she is doing the will of God by becoming the mother of the baby Jesus.  She trusts in Gabrielle’s message and forgoes the life she had planned as she was growing up and instead, does what the angel asks her to do and agrees to become the mother of Jesus.

            Now let me focus on Jesus.  As the Son of God, there is no question about his holiness.  He is the epitome of holiness.  Yet, how is he considered holy as a member of this family?  Does he lead the prayers at the dinner table or the rosary during the evening or attend Catholic School or go to CCE classes?  No, he too is considered holy because he came to do the will of his father here on earth.  He was sent to reveal the father to us humans and to give us an example of how we are to live our lives and points us back to the Father.  And most importantly, he came to suffer and die for our sake and our salvation at the request of His father.  This is what makes him the holiest of all.  It is in doing the will of his father that Jesus shows us how to be holy.

             In the Gospel, Jesus stays behind to start working in the Temple, the house of his father.  Mary and Joseph are very distraught when they can’t find Jesus.  When they find him, he almost scolds them for being so worried.  He tells them, don’t you know that I am here to do my father’s work, and nothing else.  This greatly hurts them, yet, they also realize that he will have to leave one day and go off on his own.  Sound familiar?  His life is not about him, or them.  It is about doing God’s will.

            So how can we have a holy family?  Sure, we can pray more together, or discuss the weekly readings over dinner, or that Sunday’s homily and how you are going to apply it to your lives.  Yet, as I have pointed out already, to be holy means to be doing the will of God in our lives, and in the family.  Now here comes the big question, “How do I do the will of God in my life?”   Unfortunately, not many of us have an angel appear before us and ask us to do certain things in our lives.  I certainly didn’t get a visit from one and ask me to give up my life as a sales person and enter the seminary.  So how do we know what God wants us to do in our lives?  He has given us each certain gifts and talents.  Doing God’s will means using them to love God and serve others and not our own selfish interests.  We need to answer the following few questions: How can we promote the good of others in my family?  How can we allow them to use their gifts and talents to the fullest?  This is how we do the will of God in our lives.  Am I living a life of justice and integrity?  Am I teaching others to do the same? When I make a decision, do I think how Jesus would handle this issue, or do I choose my own selfish ways?  It means that your life is not about you, but about God and his children.  What is prompting you to greatest love and justice in your life? Greatest truth and integrity? Greatest self gift? Greatest self offering?  That is the voice of God inside of you, guiding you or giving you a choice to make. Often, when given a choice, the hardest choice is often the one God wants us to make.  Thomas Merton, a great spiritual writer, offers us this piece of advice, that if a choice is difficult, then that is probably the one God wants you to choose.  I see this in my own life.  It would have been easier for me to continue drinking, instead of choosing, with the help of Jesus, to stop. Or to enter the seminary instead of marrying Renee, or coming to Altoona instead of staying in Houston, to serve as a priest. 

            Examine what drives you and your life.  Is it God, or your own desires?  When all the members of a family use God as their guide in how the family lives out their vocation and as their guide in forming their lives, then they are considered holy.  When God is your guide, then you will want to pray as a family.  When God is your guide, you will give him the thanks and praise when things are going well, and turn to him when you need help.  He becomes an intricate member of your family, not just someone that you talk to on occasion. 

             Today, celebrate the feast of the Holy Family by allowing God to become an intricate member of your family each and every day and not just on Sundays.  In this way, you too will be considered a Holy Family.