MESSAGE FOR THIRD SUNDAY ADVENT 2020
MY Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ
Compliments of the Season!
Peace and Love!
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the spirit of honouring every Christian Family. It is every family's feast day, since the Holy Family is the patron and model of all Christian families.
Today’s readings focus on the mind set and the virtues we need to make a Holy Family. Although more emphasis is given in the first two readings on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. "Like father like son" is an old saying, and very often true. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God and their country, the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellow human beings.
In today’s first reading Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother.
Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul’s advice is part of the "Household Code" – the rules for members of the Christian family. Though its details date to Paul’s time, the underlying message of being careful with one another – attentive, gentle, and merciful – is timeless. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities -- like compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and sharing -- in the warmth of the family. In a truly holy family all members are respected, cherished, nurtured, and supported, united in the bond of love.
In the Gospel today, we find St Luke telling us about Christ being circumcised, named and presented in the Temple, all as the Law required. Now none of this was necessary for Christ, Christ could have achieved his goals without it. Rather the point of choosing to live under the Law is to connect Christ’s mission with God’s earlier revelation of himself in the Old Testament. God only has one plan of salvation, it’s revealed to us in the Old Testament and then it’s perfected and completed by Christ the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. Of course, the context in which Christ lived under God’s Law was that of his family, the Holy Family.
A Glimpse into the Holy Family
St Luke has another story to illustrate what trials were faced by Mary and Joseph, in trying to understand the development of Jesus as a young person. When he was twelve, they were shocked to lose him for three days and then had to deal with the unsatisfactory explanation that he “had to be about his Father’s business.” Still, he returned with them to Nazareth and was subject to them, in the quiet rhythm of family life in their village. We do not hear of Joseph any more after that so we presume that he had died before Jesus began his public ministry. Then too, the public life of Jesus must have taken its toll on Mary. In the Temple when he was an infant, old Simeon had predicted that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s soul. How she must have been pained to hear his enemies say that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners, and at the end, when Mary watched her son die in public disgrace, on the cross. What sustained the family of Nazareth through all of these trials and crosses?
We can go further to affirm that in a certain sense Jesus, Himself, was the first devotee of His family. He showed His devotion to His mother and foster father by submitting Himself, with infinite humility, to the duty of filial obedience towards them. This is what St Bernard of Clairvaux said in this regard, ‘God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.’ (First Homily on the ‘Missus Est’).
St. Joseph, the Model for Faithful Father(s) in Families
Today’s celebration demonstrates Christ’s humility and obedience with respect to the fourth commandment, whilst also highlighting the loving care that His parents exercised in His keeping. The servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in 1989, entitled his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Redemptoris Custos’(Guardian of the Redeemer) which was dedicated to the person and the mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. After exactly a century, he resumed the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for who Saint Joseph ‘.. shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men’ (Encyclical Quamquam Pluries n. 3). Pope Leo XIII continued, ‘.. Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.[…] It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.’ Not many years before, blessed Pope Pius IX had proclaimed Saint Joseph, ‘Patron of the Catholic Church’ (1870).
Heart of the Father
On the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis has circulated an Apostolic Letter titled- “PATRISCORDE” which means the “Heart of the Father”.
FATHER’S HEART: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as “the son of Joseph”.
Matthew and Luke, the two Evangelists who speak most of Joseph, tell us very little, yet enough for us to appreciate what sort of father he was, and the mission entrusted to him by God’s providence.
The Power of Love
What holds families together in times of difficulty is love and trust. Whenever families are happy, it is where love and respect are highly prized among them. We pray for an outpouring of those qualities in our families today.
What kept The Holy Family together and sane throughout all of these trials and crosses? The answer is ‘Love for each other and God’. Jesus’ love for Mary and Mary’s love for Jesus, and the love of both of them for God the Father. We can see Jesus’ love for his mother when he was dying on the cross and was worried about leaving her behind so he asked his close friend and disciple John to look after her, saying to Mary, ‘Woman behold your son’, and to John ‘behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27). What holds our families together also in times of difficulty is love and forgiveness. It is love which triumphs in the end, even if for a while love may have to take the form of some honest talking. When discipline needs to be given, if it is not given in love it is reduced to abuse. If ever our families fail in any way, it is because of a lack of love on someone’s part. Whenever our families are successful, it is because they are places of love.
The Threat to the Families Today
I believe that the greatest threat facing families now is simply that we don’t spend enough time together. We are so busy working, or socializing, or watching TV that we have less and less time for each other. What a pity.
There is a story about a solicitor who lived a considerable distance from her elderly father. Months had passed since they had been together and when her father called to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him, e.g., court schedule, meetings, new clients, research, etc., etc. At the end of the recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” The daughter’s response was immediate, “Dad, I can’t believe you’d ask that! Of course, I’ll come!” To which the father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come; I need you more now than I will then.”
As I said, I believe one of the greatest threats facing families now is simply that we do not spend enough time together. Spending time together with the family is a way of showing our family that we love them. When we love our family we want to sacrifice ourselves by spending time with them, and all the more so when we realize that by not spending time with them we are depriving them of our love and hurting them.
Just as the Holy Ffamily survived all its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray during this Mass that our families will conquer all difficulties through love for each other and faith in God.
We all live in many different homes:
· Homes of fear, anger, and prejudice
· Homes of grief and sorrow
· Homes where we were told that we don’t matter, we are not enough, unacceptable or unloveable
· Homes where we have been hurt or wounded
· Homes in which we have hurt others
· Homes where we experience apathy, indifference, and
· Homes of gossip, envy and pride
Every one of us may live in any of these homes. The problem is that sometimes we have become too comfortable with them. But they are not our true homes. Jesus says that there is not only another home for us but invites, guides and grows us up into that home. It is the Father’s home in which we can know ourselves and each other to be His beloved children. It is a home in which we live in rooms of mercy, forgiveness, joy, beauty, generosity, and compassion.
Today, Jesus invites us to grow up, as He grew up in the Family of Mary and Joseph. Growing up involves our letting go of fear about the future and discover that God is here in the present and all shall be alright. We stop ruminating on our past guilt, regrets, and sins and accept the mercy and forgiveness of God and each other. We see our life not in opposition or comparison to others but as intimately related and inter-dependent upon others.