On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement in our daily lives. Christmas, and the days following the Lord’s birth, are important moments for the family. Families are important, but lets be honest, we don’t choose who our brothers and sisters are.
Christmas and New Year’s can be a time of great joy for a family, but it also can be a time when families can get on each other’s nerves.
Families are important and it is important that we spend time with our children, with our siblings, our parents and so on.
There was young boy who greeted his father as he returned from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father was surprised and said: “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son's room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” The father replies. “Here's the money you asked for earlier.” “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. Then he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?”
Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family. How much one on one time do we spend with our children, chatting with them, hearing their stories and sharing our wisdom?
Life must be about more than work. It must be about more than ourselves.
Mary and Joseph were a model family in which both parents placed the family before themselves. They placed the family interests before their work. Joseph was a carpenter and probably had his own workshop in
Mary and Joseph worked hard, helped, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their child so that he might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a child of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2223) gives the following advice to parents: "Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.”
Do we have homes of forgiveness or are our homes like a court room, with judges and sentences. If the husband and wife start arguing like lawyers, in an attempt to justify their behaviour and to show who is right or wrong, then the family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife - as in a confessional - are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.
My friend there are three ingredients needed to make Christ present in our families. The same three ingredients make Jesus present here in this church, on this very altar. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish church through sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving.
How often do we say to ourselves, today I am going to give one hour undivided attention to my child, despite how boring it may be.
How often do we sit down for dinner with the family and let the children talk about their hopes and dreams and take a real interest in them.
How often do we thank our children for their smile, for their laughter and for their joy.
My friends, when we live sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving, then Christ is present in our midst.
A different way of putting this is to say that we need a mutual understanding, support and respect for all in our families. There needs to be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents even after the children have left home. One of the commandments is “honour your father and your mother.” However parents must firstly show respect, support, understanding and honour to their children. When parents consistently take an interest in the life of their children, especially their adult-children, the children will learn to take an interest in others, and thus learn to develop and contribute to the family relationship and to nourish and contribute to society.
The family is the place where children first learn to understand and live in a community. When children see personal interest as more important than the family, then they will learn to view personal interest as more important than anything in the community. When children grow up in a family which understands its position as the domestic Church, then children learn to understand that relationship and faith in God is an essential part of who we are, not simply something we do at the church building.
On the Feast Day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, all parents are encouraged to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling the responsibility which God has placed on them.. Let us pray for the grace of truly caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families throughout the world. May God bless all your families in the New Year with peace, joy and happiness.