“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.”(Luke 2:40)
Every year, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday after Christmas. Indeed, our celebration of Christ’s birthday will not be complete if we fail to recognize the fact that Christ was born into a human family. Just as God from the beginning designed man and woman to live together as a family, God went the extra mile to ensure that Joseph was married to Mary that the child Jesus would have a family.
Take away the family and the human species would gradually go extinct. How? The book of Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” So, what becomes of a child that is not properly trained or one who grew up in a dysfunctional family? Most of the problems we face in our society today can be traced to the family – the breeding ground that produces either good or bad character in a person. As the saying goes: “Charity begins at home.”
Are you ashamed of your family? Based on our readings at mass today, there are certain things you can do to turn things around for good.
1. Prayer is the Key
Our first reading is a conversation between God and Abram wherein we hear Abram asking God for the gift of a child. Abram had over the years developed a solid friendship with God to the extent that he, being a man could speak to God freely. The prayer of Abram teaches us that prayer is always a conversation with God – a dialogue, not a monologue. As we talk to God, let us try to listen to Him by reading the Bible daily. Another important lesson we learn from Abram’s prayer was his firm faith. We read: “And he believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Having prayed for your family, what are your expectations?
In today’s Second reading, we heard St. Paul admonishing us on the need for family prayers: “Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16). When last did you gather as a family to pray, sing psalms, hymns and other spiritual songs? When last did you gather your family to admonish them based on the Word of God? A family that prays together stays together.
Apart from praying together as a family, you must never fail to bring your family to Church. In today’s Gospel passage, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple and did for Him what the custom required. Of course, they both knew that this child was not an ordinary child, yet they followed the law. Bring your children to the Church and make sure they pray, bring them to attend catechism classes, bring them to partake of the pious societies in the church, let them join the choir, the lay readers, the churchwardens, the mass-servers etc. When you get back home, ask them what they learnt in Church.
2. Children are Gifts from God, Not Merely Products of Biology
One mistake we often make as parents is treating our children as our properties. Once again the story of Abram in today’s first reading emphasizes this point. We read: “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” Let us learn to respect our children. It is better to make your children love you rather than fear you. When they love you, they would divulge their deepest secrets to you and seek your advice but when they only fear you, they would keep things away from you and seek advice from their peers instead. In today’s second reading, we hear St. Paul saying: “Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged.”
Recently we heard of a nine-year-old girl who threw her brother into a well and lied that the baby was kidnapped. It was only after several hours of questioning by the Police that she confessed that she threw the baby into a well because her parents treated him with so much love while she was treated like a curse. For whatever reason, you may love one child more than another but never show it. Know that all children are equally gifts from God. Avoid making the mistake of Jacob whose love for Joseph made his brothers hatch a plan to sell him off. Love all your children equally.
3. Live by Example: Fear God; Put on Righteousness.
Our responsorial Psalm today sings: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways… your wife like a fruitful vine, your children like shoots of olive around your table.” There is always a connection between your spirituality and what happens in your household. If you are God-fearing and walk in the light, good things will come to your family.
St. Paul outlines certain virtues we need to have to make our families holy. These include compassion, kindness, meekness and patience, forbearance and forgiveness, peacefulness and gratitude. Do you realize that if any of them is missing, your family soon reduces to a mad-house of horror? Take for instance, compassion; the ability to help one who is suffering or passing through some difficulty. When one is in trouble, the first question asked is: “doesn’t he (or she) have a family?”
Can you imagine a family without kindness? Or a family where there is no forgiveness? The reason why some brothers and sisters do not see eye to eye today is their refusal to forgive each other. Once you cannot forgive a family member, you create room for the devil to steal, kill and destroy your family. There is no family where they do not hurt or offend each other but what sustains a holy family is their ability to constantly forbear and overlook these offences. Mary and Joseph felt bad when Jesus stayed behind in the temple but they forgive Him instantly for causing them such inconvenience and took him home.
4. Make Your Marriage Work
Good marriages always produce excellent families. When there is something wrong with the marriage, it always has a ripple effect on the family and when there is a breakdown of marital love and unity, it often brings about a broken family. St. Paul speaks to wives and husbands specially: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” St. Paul is not asking wives to become slaves to their husbands, rather he means to emphasize the fact that there cannot be two captains in a ship. Husbands and wives are equal, none is superior to the other but one has to lead the family.
St. Paul continues: “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” To love a person is to respect that person and be willing to die for her just as Jesus Christ died for us. St. Paul says, “do not be harsh with them” which is another way of saying: “Learn how to control your temper.” Know when to smile and when to diffuse an argument before it blows out of proportion. Learn to be emotionally intelligent; train yourself to always act with reason rather than with emotions; never raise your hands or your voice on your spouse. He or she may not be perfect, yet, rather than trying by all means to change them, you can love them until their best comes out.
Conclusion: A Holy Family Requires Work and Sacrifice.
Growing up as kids, we read a lot of story books which ended with the phrase: “And they lived happily ever after.” Most of us often make the mistake of assuming that after the wedding ceremony, everything suddenly falls into place by itself. This is not true. If your family is to be holy, then get ready to do the hard work; be prayerful, fear God, live a virtuous life, be faithful to your marital vows, love your spouse to the end. Remember, no one can give what he or she does not have.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, renew my family in your grace and power. Amen.
Year B. Bible Study: Genesis 15:1-6.21:1-3, Psalm 128, Colossians 3:12-21 & Luke 2:22-40)