The Holy Family persevered through trials just as our families

Homily for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Christmas is a family time. Families have re-united once again. During this time when families have the grace and privilege to spend much time together, to enjoy each other’s company, to relax together, to have special family meals together, let us thank God for all the graces and blessings our families enjoy and let us also ask God to bless our families and help our families continue to grow to become what they are called to be.

It is fitting that during this family time every year we reflect on The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We call it “The Holy Family” because it was the most holy of families,

  • Mary was immaculately conceived and was sinless all her life and conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit.

  • Joseph was her chaste spouse.

  • Jesus was the Son of God.

Yet in our Gospel (Year C) we see a moment of tension in The Holy Family as Jesus is lost and found again in the Temple. Like Jesus on the cross who asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and did not receive a reply from his Father, Mary asks Jesus “why have you done this to us?” and Jesus’ reply does not seem to take account of her pain or that of Joseph, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s affairs?”

And then Luke goes on to write that Mary and Joseph did not know what Jesus meant. And sometimes our families too do not understand why we have a particular cross to carry and like Mary we ask, “Why did you do this to us?” And as in the case of Mary there is no satisfactory answer but with faith we continue to live the Christian life, to be about our Father’s affairs because no other way will bring true or lasting peace and happiness.

The Holy Family was a family with special grace but yet a family with trials. Every family has particular graces and blessings and every family also has difficulties and crosses. The Holy Family is a model for families because despite their many trials, and there were many as know from reading the Gospels, the family remained faithful, loving and united. It is good to pray today to the Holy Family, to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, asking them to help our families persevere through their trials just as The Holy Family persevered.

To encourage families today I want to share with you words that we first heard from Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. On the day he left Ireland on October 1st 1979 much of his homily in Limerick was giving encouragement to families and in particular to parents. The Pope reminded us that the family is primary and has been our greatest resource and due to contemporary challenges is more important than ever,

“To all I say, revere and protect your family and your family life, for the family is the primary field of Christian action for the Irish laity, the place where your ‘royal priesthood’ is chiefly exercised. The Christian family has been in the past Ireland’s greatest spiritual resource. Modern conditions and social changes have created new patterns and new difficulties for family life and for Christian marriage. I want to say to you: do not be discouraged, do not follow the trends where a close-knit family is seen as outdated; the Christian family is more important for the Church and for society today than ever before.”
(Homily of Pope John Paul II in Limerick, Monday October 1st, 1979)

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, reminded parents that marriage is a vocation from God and that there is nothing more important for parents than being a good father and mother,

“Dear fathers and mothers of Ireland, believe in your vocation, that beautiful vocation of marriage and parenthood which God has given to you. Believe that God is with you – for all parenthood in heaven and on earth takes its name from him. Do not think that anything you will do in life is more important than to be a good Christian father and mother. May Irish mothers, young women and girls not listen to those who tell them that working at a secular job, succeeding in a secular profession, is more important than the vocation of giving life and caring for this life as a mother. The future of the Church, the future of humanity depend in great part on parents and on the family life that they build in their homes. The family is the true measure of the greatness of a nation, just as the dignity of man is the true measure of civilization.”
(Homily of Pope John Paul II in Limerick, Monday October 1st, 1979)

Our Holy Father, the Pope, also reminded us on that day that marriage means being open to the receive the gift of children from God,

“I want to say a very special word to all Irish parents. Marriage must include openness to the gift of children. Generous openness to accept children from God as the gift to their love is the mark of the Christian couple. Respect the God-given cycle of life, for this respect is part of our respect for God himself, who created male and female, who created them in his own image, reflecting his own life-giving love in the patterns of their sexual being.”
(Homily of Pope John Paul II in Limerick, Monday October 1st, 1979)

As the Pope left Ireland that day, he asked families to give him a parting gift, that our homes would always be places of prayer,

“Your homes should always remain homes of prayer. As I leave today this island which is so dear to my heart, this land and its people which is such a consolation and strength to the Pope, may I express a wish: that every home in Ireland may remain or may begin again to be, a home of daily family prayer. That you would promise me to do this would be the greatest gift you could give me as I leave your hospitable shores.”
(Homily of Pope John Paul II in Limerick, Monday October 1st, 1979)

As families reunite again during Christmas and celebrate being a family let us thank God for all the graces and blessings our families enjoy. The Holy Family was indeed a most holy family because it had received exceptional graces but it also had to endure trials just as all families do. Our Holy Father’s message to families in Limerick in 1979 reminded families of their huge importance and the need for families to continue to cherish and nourish and foster everything Christian that will help them be the best of families. Marriage is a vocation and there is nothing more important for parents than to be a good father and mother. Therefore let us pray to the Holy Family, to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to help our families fulfill our call to be Christian families, to continue to grow to become what we are called to be.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas - The Holy Family

The Holy Family - held together by love through all their problems

God’s Plan for the Family - a Reflection of God’s Love

The Holy Family and Our Families 2015

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