The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph- Dec. 31, 2023

 

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph- Dec. 31, 2023

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2: 22-40

 

Theme: The Holy Family of Nazareth is the Model for our Families Today

Last Sunday, we celebrated the nativity of our Lord, and today, the Church invites us to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and their Child Jesus. The Bible readings suggested today focus on the rights and responsibilities that we have toward each other in our families. On the one hand, Sirach and Saint Paul, in our first and second readings, give us some pieces of advice on the virtues to observe to make our families great. On the other hand, the evangelist Luke, in our Gospel, speaks of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph who lived concretely these virtues in their lives. So, this Holy Family became the model for our families to imitate.

The book of Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, that we heard in our first reading is composed of fifty chapters of wisdom literature. It was written between the years 200 and 175 BC by the Jewish scribe known as Ben Sira. This book contains ethical themes and poetic sayings. The theological message of this book is that building up the right relationships in a family (between husband and wife, parents/grandparents and children/grandchildren, young and old, rich and poor, etc.) ultimately leads to better reverence of God.

In our passage, Sirach instructs us on what each member of the family is expected to do to each other in order to be in good harmony with God and with one another. Sirach teaches us the application of natural virtues in daily life. This short reading has two parts. In the first part, the author teaches children the virtues that they need to do toward their parents. He says that when they honor their fathers, they atone for sins, and preserve themselves from them. When they revere their mothers, they store up riches. Honoring and respecting their parents make the children live long lives, and consequently, God hears their prayers when they pray to him. (Vv. 2-6). The second part concerns the responsibilities of children toward their parents in their old age. Sirach invites children to take care of their parents when they are old. As long as they live, we should not grieve them, even when their minds fail. The kindness that we express to our parents will not be forgotten. (Vv. 12-14). 

The wisdom that Sirach teaches us is of particular importance for our families as many are very fragile today. There is so much anger, hate, and division that is damaging our families. Here Sirach calls each of us to manifest care and concern for familial relationships. Note that Sirach relates our family relationships to the reverence of God. This means, the more we honor the relationships of our household, the more we come to revere God. When we extend our compassion to one another and care for everyone, God will grant us what we ask him when we pray to him.

Saint Paul, in our second reading, exhorts us in the same direction. He invites us to put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He also asks us to bear with one another and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us. In everything that we do, we must let the peace of Christ control our hearts and the Word of God dwell in us richly. He then calls us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and give thanks to God. Here Saint Paul refers to the liturgy of the Eucharist that we celebrate at Mass. In brief, he invites us to attend Masses regularly. When we follow all these pieces of advice, we make our families the families God created us to be.

One may say that the virtues that Sirach and Saint Paul advise us to observe are just theories, meaning difficult to practice. The evangelist Luke, in our Gospel, presents us with a family who concretely observed these virtues in their lives. This family is the Holy Family of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Mother Mary, and their Child Jesus whom our Holy Mother Church invites us to imitate. The first virtue that Luke mentions about this Holy Family is the obedience of the parents to the law of Moses (today, we will say the law of the Church).When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord” (vv. 22-23, NABRE). The observance of the law of God is an important characteristic of the Holy family. They were faithful to the commandments of God. This is the virtue that our families today need to imitate.  We are called to be faithful to the laws of the Church.

The second virtue is the humility that this Holy Family shows us. They did not use their “holy family” status or other reasons to excuse themselves from fulfilling this religious obligation. Rather, they humbled themselves and observed all the proper regulations of the Old Covenant.  Let us follow their example. We should not use excuses to not fulfill Church obligations but rather be humble.

The third virtue that this Holy family teaches us is piety. They put a priority on worship. Together with their child, they went up to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple. We will make our families great if we too put a priority on worship. Sunday is the day of the Lord, the day when all families are called to gather together in the Church and form one Church family to worship God in the liturgy of the Eucharist. Worshiping God in the Church brings us all the blessings that we need. Our Gospel tells us that in the temple, this Holy Family received beautiful blessings and insights from the devout man Simeon and the prophetess Anna who were waiting for them. God waits for us every day (especially on Sundays) in our Church in the Eucharistic celebrations (Masses) and other sacraments and he is ready to bestow his blessings on us. So, with a spirit of obedience and humility, we need to come to Church, especially on the days of obligations, and observe our daily prayer time.

May the liturgy of the Mass enable our families to imitate the Holy family of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Mother Mary, and their child Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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