“When they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.’” (Luke 2:48)
The Christmas holiday has so far provided an opportunity for family members to gather together. As such, there is no better time other than this moment to talk about the family. Today, being the last Sunday of the year 2018 and the only Sunday within the octave of Christmas, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Our readings today contain so many lessons we must apply to make our families great and holy.
1. Never Leave Jesus Behind.
Mary and Joseph went with Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. When the ceremony was over, they probably got caught up with so many normal distractions that they forgot their twelve-year-old baby behind. One of the sicknesses affecting our families today is that we have left Jesus behind. When prayer becomes scarce in the family, when Jesus is not allowed to speak; when the Bible is never read or shared, things begin to fall apart. Remember that song: “When Jesus is in the family, happy happy home, happy happy home…”
2. Children Must be Loved as GIFTS from God.
In our first reading, we read the story of Hannah who was childless and suffered ridicule as a result. It was with tears that Hannah came to the temple to pray for a child. During this season of Christmas, we saw how God made the Virgin Mary conceive, we also saw how the old Zechariah and Elizabeth had a child. What does this teach us?
One, there is nothing God cannot do. Are you currently childless, trust me, the God you serve is more than capable of blessing you when He deems fit. Let nothing dampen your faith. Two, it is not what you possess in your body that produces children. Just as God can make a virgin conceive, God can also delay conception to a perfectly healthy couple for a reason.
This implies that as parents, we must learn to see our children as gifts, not properties, persons entrusted to our care by God to whom we shall give account on the day of judgement. Children deserve to be loved. It is very sad to see parents rain curses or insults on their children, treat them as burdens or make them feel their coming to life was by mere coincidence.
3. Let Love Reign in Your Family.
Without love for one another, a family becomes a mere combination of strangers living together just because they have nowhere else to go. The uniqueness of the family is that you never get to choose the people you call family, God does that divine arrangement but too often, we act as if God made a mistake in choosing these persons for us. Your family members are your best friends, your confidants, your most trusted advisers NOT your competitors. God gave us family because he looked at the man he made and said: “It is not good for him to be alone.” Family members are companions, they support each other, sacrifice for each other, help one another to grow, they bring out the best in you. It is sad when family members try to outshine one another.
The family should never be the last resort to turn to when all else has failed, it should be the first place to turn when we desire love, warmth and a sense of direction. The mistake we often make is that we look down on our family members and begin to find love outside. Sadly, we don’t even trust our family members at times. As we saw in today’s Gospel passage, “he (Jesus) went down with them (Mary and Joseph) and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” Jesus was willing to follow his parents back home because of the love that existed in that family.
There are some family members who never see eye to eye. There are some families that have lost the hope of ever gathering together under one roof simply because love for one another has vanished from their hearts. Could this be the case in your family? There is hope. The work begins with you, forgive, mediate, let the past die, make the first move for reconciliation, show love and you are more likely to get love back. Become your family’s bridge-builder, peacemaker, heart mender, love designer. This may look like hard work but with God, all things are possible.
4. Bring Family to Church and Church to Family.
Hannah fulfilled her vow to God by bringing the boy Samuel to the temple where he was to remain for the rest of his life. Yesterday, we read how Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple for the rite of purification. Today, they bring Jesus to Jerusalem for the annual feast of Passover. Nowadays, some parents leave their children at home and come to church, some do not care about the type of clothes their children wear to church, some do not even care that their children never enter the church but hang around outside. It is very sad that Parents do not make efforts to bring their children to church for catechism classes but would be quick to blame the devil when their children eventually leave the church claiming to have seen the light elsewhere.
In truth, if we do not let our children see the light here, if we act as if religion is not important, our children will grow up without a personal relationship with God and this may just be the beginning of a life of crisis. The family is the first church. What happens in the church building is only a larger picture of what should happen in each family. They say the best time to shape a piece of clay is when it is still wet. If by our bad examples, we fail to teach God to our children, we literally set them up for destruction.
5. Let God’s Commandments Guide Your Family.
Every family has both written and unwritten codes. There are Do’s and Don’ts. Without discipline, the family falls apart. Our economy is bad, so bad that gone are the days when either parent stays home takes the job of grooming the children. Nowadays, both parents are forced to go all out and work for the money thereby leaving children to grow physically sound but morally deformed. The toughest, yet most rewarding job on earth is human formation.
Yes, the bills must be paid, the school fees must be paid but one thing that does not require money is the time you commit to building your children’s character. The bitter truth is that our schools today are nothing other than mere business centres out to make money without real concern for the integral education of the child. Hence, while the school imparts knowledge, the family must impart morality. The commandments of God must become the written codes in our family.
As our second reading today explains, our failure to keep God’s commandments puts a question mark on our claim to be children of God. It says: “All who keep his commandments abide in him and he in them.”
Conclusion: Our Families Can Be Holy Again.
No matter what may be the situation in your family right now, bear this in mind: first, there is no such thing as a perfect family out there just as there is no perfect human being. So stop comparing your family to another. Secondly, no matter how bad things are right now, you can still change them. Revive the daily family prayer, reawaken love for one another, bring family to church and church to family, apply discipline by first showing good examples. Sing: “My lifetime… my family… I give God my family….”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, make my family holier than it is right now. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28, Ps. 128:1-5, Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2:41-52).