Feast of the Holy Family

Christmas is our celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thus, it is too important to celebrate with a single day. As Catholics, we celebrate Christmas as a season that begins on Christmas day and continues until we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord (which falls on January 8th this year).

There are three other important solemnities that we celebrate during the Christmas season. On January 1st, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (this is normally a holy day of obligation but it is not this year because it falls on Monday). Then, on the following Sunday, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord.

On the Sunday between Christmas and January 1st, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is the feast we celebrate today.

If you look at the readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, you can that there are various options for the first reading, the psalm, and the second reading. So, depending on where you go for Mass, you may hear different readings. Since I am not preaching this weekend (one of our deacons is), I am going to refer to the multiple options as I offer this reflection.

In the first option for our first reading from Genesis, Abram (who will become Abraham) is married to Sarai (who will become Sarah) is lamenting being childless. He recognizes that God has blessed him when he says, “what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless, and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer.

God assures Abraham, “your own issues shall be your heir.” Abraham and Sarah have to wait a long time, well beyond Sarah’s childbearing years to have a child. This way everyone knows the birth of their child comes as a gift from God.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham put his faith in the Lord.

God intends families consisting of a father, mother, and children to be the norm. That doesn’t mean it happens for everyone. Children normally come from sexual intimacy between the husband and wife but some couples struggle with fertility issues. We pray for them. If there are appropriate medical treatments that can help them, then we pray that the Lord lead them to them. For others, we pray that God guide them to know if adoption is his plan for them. Think of the blessing that adoption is for the child without a family. Others, like myself, are called to celibacy. We pray that everyone follow the path that God has laid before them.

The second option for the first reading comes from the Book of Sirach. There we read how God intends the family to function, “God sets a father in honor over his children, a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” The parents are to be in charge, not the children. The readings continue to say how good things come when children follow what their parents say.

It is the parents that have the responsibility to raise their children. The government should assist them but not take over the parents’ role. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens today. For example, there are schools who have policies prohibited teachers and staff from telling parents if their child is identifying as transgender (for one example see “Parents sue school district, allege deception in ‘gender transition’ of daughter” by Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, 12/27/23).

I don’t understand how when a student commits a shooting, blame rushes to the parents but in a case like this, parents are denied the right to even know what is going on in their child’s life. (If you are interested in reading an extended article regarding transgenderism, you may wish to read an article I wrote in September, “Towards Dignity and Truth:  Compassionate Dialogue and Pastoral Response on Transgenderism“). We pray that all families receive the grace they need to be the family God intends them to be.

Family life is not easy. None of us is perfect. Paul writes in the second option for today’s second reading, “Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartful compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another,…And over all these put on life.” These qualities are needed in our interactions with people in our lives. They are qualities that we are meant to learn from our own families. We pray that happens.

Paul also writes in that same reading from Colossians, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.” This is not a popular passage for many. Why? Because the line, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands” is taken out of context. It does not mean to say wives should simply do whatever their husbands want. Wives need to listen to their husbands but husbands must love their wives. Wives, husbands, and children must all act as God intends. A husband who expects his wife to be submissive to him no matter what he wants is lacking in what God intends. A wife never needs to submit to abuse.

Of course, we must not forget the gospel reading, the story of the purification in the temple. Mary and Joseph did what the “law of the Lord” said. They did this because they loved God and they loved their new son Jesus. Good parents do what is right for their children.

It might be easy to assume that life for the Holy Family was easy. It was not. In fact, Simeon speaks of the sword that will pierce Mary’s side. After the visit of the magi, Joseph will take Mary and Joseph to Egypt to escape Herod (Matthew 2:13-15).

Family life is not always easy. Families need the grace of God. God is ready to give grace to those who come to him. We pray for the families who come to church and we pray even more for the families who don’t, that they may turn their hearts to God.


Fr. Jeff

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