The Feast of the Holy Family: The Wonderful Work of Parents


            After the rather intense liturgy of Christmas with its heavy theological theme, the Incarnation of the Lord, (hopefully that didn’t get lost in the sentiments of the day)  today we are presented with a much lighter theme theologically, the Feast of the Holy Family.


            Quite often some of you young Moms or Dads will mention in confession that you are not doing the best job possible as a parent.  God bless you for seeking forgiveness for the times you haven’t been as loving as you could; however, you are usually way too hard on yourselves. I usually respond to the Mom or Dad in confession, “Take it easy on yourself.  Mary and Joseph left their child in the Temple, and they only had one to worry about.”


            Still, I realize, and far more important, the Lord realizes, that there is nothing more important to you than being the best parent possible.  Sometimes the conditions of your life render the ideal impossible. One or both of the parents may be sick physically, emotionally, psychologically or all three. Your spouse may have died young, or your marriage may have broken up and now you find yourself as a single parent.  Or you may have made the moral choice, and chosen to have a baby even though you were not married.  The ideal may not be there, but even if all seems perfect in the house next door, there is no family that lives the ideal life.  That is only reserved for Leave it to Beaver.  (Boy, am I dating myself.) Every other family needs to find their way to being a Holy Family despite their current challenges.


            That is what this Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family is about.  The Sunday says that Moms and Dads may mean well, but they may make mistakes.  They may leave the child in the Temple.  But as long as they have mutual respect and treat their children with respect, their family will reflect the Love that motivated the Holy Family.


            Joseph and Mary devoted their lives to protecting and caring for their child, Jesus.  You do the same for your children, whether your children are still at home or have moved on with their own lives.  You care for your children by protecting them from the evils of the world around them.  You care for your children by fulfilling their needs, not necessarily their wants, but their needs.  You care for your children by being loving and respectful to each other if you are married, to other adults in all situations, and to your children themselves as individual reflections of God’s love entrusted to you to be molded in that person God created your sons or daughter to become.


            It is a difficult job being a good Christian parent.  At the same time there is nothing better that you could do with your lives.  Yes you might become a medical researcher and find a cure to start eliminating cancer, but even that is not greater than being the best Christian Mom or Dad that you can be. 


            When you die, when I die, the Lord is going to ask us how well we allowed others to reflect His Glory in the world.  For me it will be as a priest.  For you it will be as a Mom or Dad.  One of the finest members of our parish who passed away  told his wife shortly before he died, “We have beautiful children who are good people.  If I don’t make it, I know that I’ve completed my mission here on earth.” 


            I hope you all have the fulfillment of all your dreams and desires in life.  I hope you all can go on cruises and travel to Europe and do whatever you think would be wonderful.  But I also hope that you know that none of that is important.  If you have been gifted with children, the only thing you need to do is do your best to be a good Mom or Dad.


            But how about those children who have strayed?  How about those children who have received the best in their homes, and then became adults and stopped attending Church?  Treat them with respect.  Treat them with love.  Continue to forgive them, and whether they like it or not, they will have an experience of Christ in their lives.  And they will be healed, healed by the Lord, healed by you who remain a vehicle of God’s love.


            I will never forget one of our Moms telling me that she survived the Air Force Academy.  She thought that being a cadet would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do, particularly that first year when she was away from home the first time.  But she learned that there would be nothing more difficult than raising a child, or in her case, three children.  She also learned that there would be nothing more rewarding.


            Good families are not perfect families.  Good Moms and Dads are not perfect Moms and Dads.  Mistakes happen.  Sometimes a child gets left behind in the Temple because Mom are Dad are convinced the child was with the other spouse.  It doesn’t matter if mistakes are made.  It only matters that parents are doing their best to be good parents.  It only matters that parents are respecting each other, even if they are no longer present to each other through death or divorce.  It only matters that parents are loving their children with the sacrificial love of the Lord.  For if the sacrificial love of the Lord is the modus operandi, the way that parents treat their children, then the Lord will surely be present in the home, and the family will surely be a Holy Family.


            May your family and our Church family continue to grow in love.  May we as individual units and as universal Church remain a Holy Family.