Holy Family: Being a Holy Family
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This feast has tremendous meaning for the Catholic family. Our call to holiness, to be separate for the Lord, forms our families into little Churches.
When I was preparing this homily, I thought about our families, our young families with babies and little children, pre-Teens and Teens at home, our older families whose children have moved off on their own, and our senior families that consist in grandma and grandpa, or maybe just the oldest member of a family still alive. I also thought about all those who are looking forward someday to starting a family of their own. I was tempted to talk about the destructive influences of our society attacking the very concept of marriage and family, or about the tendency to worship materialism instead of God, but then I stopped and thought about whom exactly would be attending Mass this weekend. I asked myself, “Self,” (I’m on a first name basis with myself) “Self, what would God want to say to these people?” It is clear to me. He would want me to tell you that you are wonderful.
Somewhere along the line, maybe it was in your Mom’s and Dad’s home, maybe when you decided to marry, possibly when you had children, and brought them to be baptized or receive the sacraments, somewhere along the line you made the decision to establish a holy family. You became committed Catholics, committed to dong the best for your children, and continuing this commitment after they moved off. When I see so many of you coming to Church with your children every Sunday, or, in the case of the retirees, knowing that you brought your children to Church back when they were home, I am so proud of you. How many houses did you drive by today whose inhabitants rolled over in bed and have not even considered going to Church? That is not your style. Your way is to have Christ in the center of your family’s life. You are here. You have a Holy Family.
And it is not just being here that matters. You are continually finding ways to pray in your homes with your children and with your spouse. You are continually looking for way to reach out to others in love and generosity. You are certainly committed to Christ as individuals, but also as families.
If I am proud of you for living your faith, how must God be elated with you? He knows about the diaper that needed changing right after the older kids got into the car. He knows the Teens who avoided a party where there would be stuff and people they had best avoid. He also knows how seriously you are all taking your responsibility to be Christians, to create a Christian home.
Sometimes parents get down on themselves for not being the best parents possible. Being the best parent possible is an ideal you strive for, not a reality you will reach. Same with me, being the best priest possible is an ideal I strive for, not a reality I will ever reach. We all need to trust in God. We do our best and let Him do the rest. He fixes at night the mistakes we make during the day.
For you parents with children still at home, there is nothing more difficult than raising a Holy child. Nothing is more rewarding either. The tremendous effort you are making instilling the faith into your children, allowing them to reach out towards their own spiritual ideals, is one of the ways that you reverence God. Each child is your child, yes. But each child is also His child. Keep working hard to allow His child to be a Holy child. And, please don’t give up on yourselves, even when you make a mistake. Even Mary and Joseph left their child behind in the Temple, and they only had one to worry about. Never, ever give up plugging away to lead your children to be good Christian men and women.
For those of you who have grown children, or who never had children, remember that your way to the Lord is through your spouse. Many of you picked 1 Corinthians 13 for your wedding celebration: Love is patient, love is kind. What comes before the “is” is syrupy and sentimental. What comes after the “is” is the reality of marriage: being patient and kind, not being jealous or arrogant or rude, not insisting on one’s own way or being irritable or resentful, bearing all things, hoping for all things, believing all things. Basically, you sacrifice yourselves to such an extent that you accept the human limitations of your spouse as you pray that he or she accept your human limitations. That is your way to God, your way to being a Holy Family.
It does not get easier over the years of marriage. Our seniors know that taking care of a husband or wife, often means being patient with the impatient, and understanding with the quarrelsome. But they are being perfected in honoring Christ’s presence in their marriages.
A word to those of you who are young and hoping to form your own families someday. What are you looking for in a future spouse? Do you hope your spouse will be rich? Are you looking for extreme beauty or serious manliness? You deserve more
than all that. You want to find the right guy, the right girl? Pray to God to help you, and then look for a man or women with whom you are comfortable praying. If you can pray with him or her, really pray not just recite prayers but share your presence of Jesus, then there you have the qualities you need to form a Christian home. Ask God to help you find that person who has spiritual richness, spiritual beauty, spiritual strength. When you find that person, then, come to the Church and ask for the sacramental presence of Christ in your relationship in the sacrament of matrimony. Yes, getting married on the beach, or in the Grand Canyon, or underwater, or Sky diving, might seem significant, but a real marriage is a union of husband and wife to Jesus Christ in the sacrament of matrimony. Don’t deprive yourselves of the real presence of the Lord uniting His Love to your love.
On Christmas, we formed a community of prayer and celebrated the presence of the Lord at Mass. Throughout the day, we continued the celebration in our families. We did this by exchanging gifts, enjoying a meal together, basically just being together. It was good, all good. Perhaps, on Christmas Day more than most other days we sense the Presence of the Lord in our families. Perhaps, on Christmas Day more than most other days we realize that we have been given the gift of being a Holy Family. Perhaps, on Christmas Day more than most other days we realize that the center of the Holy Family is Jesus Christ, whether that Holy Family was Mary and Joseph’s, or whether that Holy Family is your family.