Celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family
by Fr. Peter deSousa
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. What is our goal for our family? To be a happy family? To be a successful family? To be a financially secure family? To be a holy family? What can our family learn from the Holy Family? What makes us into a holy family? What message does today's feast have for all families today, particularly Christian families?
An old song had these words: "I want to be happy, but I can't be happy till I make you happy too." In what does happiness consist? The secret is in making the others in the family happy too, according to the song. Does this mean that everyone tries hard to please everyone else, always? Are there times when one must disagree if one is true to one's conscience? Are there times parents need to correct their children and disciple them? Mind you I did not use the word discipline but disciple. Some times we do not want to be discipled. We want to follow the easy way of pleasure and personal fulfilment. But when we know our parents love us and are interested in our growth as human persons, we will submit to discipleship and accept correction. We will be ready to listen and examine our values. We will see the sense of self denial and the importance of reinforcing desirable behaviour.
What is a successful family? One where all the children excel in studies and extra curricular activities? A family where all behave with perfect manners and where they never quarrel? A model family made up of perfectionists? Mother Teresa said: "God does not call me to be successful but to be faithful." We are all human and as such have our human failings. Falling down on the journey of life and getting up again are part of growth. We can be Simon of Cyrene and Veronica to each other in the family. We sincerely try to change undesirable behaviour with the grace of God and help, support and encouragement of our loved ones. We ask a faithful God to help us to be faithful one day at a time.
There are financially secure families that own enormous wealth. But as soon as one brother becomes famous, jealousy and one-up-man-ship, causes a rift. Money goes to people's heads and ego's become swollen. There are many that fawn on the rich so as to share in their success. But they desert a sinking ship. Families that put their trust in God allow God to provide for them. They know how to share with others gladly. They believe that God is the only Giver and all of us are merely sharers of his gifts.
What is a holy family? If they recite several prayers, fast, give alms, sprinkle holy water on each other and do penance, will they become holy like contemplative Sisters or monks? I remember seeing a family like this who were regimented and stifled by a pious parent. It was pathetic to see young people suppressing their human spirits out of fear. Thank God the parent disappeared and the children were set free.
The holy family of Nazareth never had it easy. Their faith was often put to the test. Mary had to explain how she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit to her fiancee Joseph. Joseph had to believe the dream in which this was explained. Why should the promised Messiah be born in a cattle shed? Why should the son of an all-powerful God flee from a petty despot like Herod? Why spend 30 long years in the despised village of Nazareth? It did not make sense. Why should Jesus not use his power and wisdom to make the family more comfortable? Or to come down from the cross?
Holiness comes from God. Only God is holy. But those who obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit will walk the path of holiness. Prayer of listening to God's Word and the inspirations of the Spirit must be part of family prayer as well as individual prayer. Colossians 3:12-17 spell out what makes a holy family. Why not read this together as a family and share what God is asking of each one of you. May all of you be a truly holy family.
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For Better or for Worse copyright © 2004 Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.