We celebrate this last Sunday of the year 2017 the lovely Feast of the Holy Family. The Sacred Readings (Year B) invite us to meditate on the meaning of the Family of Nazareth and on our own family. In the first reading (Gen 15:1-6), God helps Abraham and Sarah to become parents: God promises numerous descendants – and the faithful Patriarch believed him. In the second reading (Hebr 11:8, 11-12, 17-19), the author of the Letter to the Hebrews praises the great faith of Abraham that we are asked to imitate, and in the Holy Gospel of St. Luke (2:22, 39-40), we are told that the child Jesus grew – up to when he was about thirty years old -, strong and wise with Mary and Joseph.
We meditate on the Holy Family, on our family.
The family is in crisis today: separation, divorce, abortion, domestic violence, children’s abuse, pornography …; wounded families, broken families, no family. Even the concepts of marriage and family are often ambiguous with the growing reality of same-sex marriages, single parent families, and so on. The Christian family is also negatively affected by the secular views of man, gender ideology, family and society.
Still, for most people, the family is the number one value in their lives (as my students in bioethics – 48 in all, except one). For us Christians, in particular, the family is a sacred reality, a domestic Church, a community of life and love, the main school of our values and virtues, of prayer. The Old Testament writers recommend the practice of the virtues of obedience, piety, respect, compassion. The Fourth Commandment – “Honor your father and mother” – asks us to respect our parents. To respect them means to revere them, to esteem them – to love them, care for them all their lives, particularly when they are old.
For us, the Holy Family of Nazareth continues to be the icon and inspiration of our families. On the day of the Feast of the Holy Family we are asked to contemplate, venerate and imitate the Sacred Family of Nazareth: Jesus (called “the son of a carpenter”), Mary (the Mother of Jesus, the wife of Joseph and housekeeper) and Joseph (the carpenter of the town, Jesus custodian and head of the Holy Family).
I remember the wonderful meditation of Blessed Paul VI – who might be canonized in 2018 – on his visit to Nazareth on January 5, 1964. The Pope told us then to continue learning the lessons of Nazareth. What lessons? Nazareth teaches us first on family life: its meaning, its beauty, its core which is communion in love. Nazareth teaches us, second on silence: on love of silence so an admirable and needed habit, particularly today when we are disturbed by so much noise, by so many different voices in the digital world. The silence of Nazareth teaches us on the need of recollection, of interior and peaceful space; on the need to listen to good teachers, to our parents and brothers and sisters – and, above all, to God. Nazareth teaches us, in the third place on work and on the dignity of workers – of all workers. The importance of work in our life (as in the life of Jesus and Mary and Joseph); its creative and redemptive dimension. We remember today the tragedy of unemployment and the terrible effects it causes in so many families!
Family is conjugal love, and parental and filial love. Its center is the children: we remember them here in this Eucharist with great love! We bring to our attention the vast number of children who are victims of violence, who are made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers and workers. We remember with sadness and hope infants killed in the womb, displaced, due to war and persecution. (Cf. Blessing “Urbi et Orbi,” December 25, 2014).
Bowing before the Crib we learn the lessons of genuine family life, silence and work. Above all, we learn the perennial lesson of love: we learn that we are loved and understood. After all, “a house is where you live; a home, where they understand you.”
A painter wanted to paint the most beautiful object in the world! He went to a big park to ask people: “What is the most beautiful thing in the world for you?” He asked a soldier: “Nothing is more beautiful than peace: living together in peace!” Then he asked a young couple: “Love is the most beautiful thing: it makes the world go ‘round.” Then he asked a priest: “Faith is the most beautiful thing: it moves mountains.” The painter asked himself: How do I paint peace, and love, and faith? After a silent pause, he answered himself: I know what the most beautiful thing in the world is: my family, my home. “It is here where I experience peace, love and faith.” Jesus, God and man, found at Nazareth – as a human being – peace, love and faith through the 30 years he lived at home with Mary and Joseph.
Indeed, the family, our family is the best thing in the world for each one of us. We thank God for the Holy Family, for our family. We offer this Eucharist for our families (for the members who have left us and those who remain with us), and also for broken families. We ask the Sacred Family of Nazareth to help us be ad become more good members of our respective families – loving, caring, and sharing!
Today December 31 is the last day of the year. At the end of another year, we are grateful. We say Gracias a la vida, thanks to life that has given me so much… Overall, it was a very good year, even with its portion of disappointments, failures and mistakes – and some painful happenings, perhaps. God was with us and his Providence covered us. We are grateful to many people, to our family, to our brothers and sisters, and, above all, to God. Everything is a gift from God, everything is grace: “What do you have that you have not received?” (St. Paul). “Be thankful,” St. Paul urges us (Col 3:15; see Col 3: 17). “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love endures forever” (Ps 118:1). In particular, we are grateful to God for sending to us Jesus Christ, his Son and our brother and savior. How may one be not grateful hearing this? “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother was most grateful as she prayed humbly: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (cf. Lk 1:46-55). All the saints went through life giving thanks. The last words of Pope Paul VI: “Dear God, thanks, many thanks.” Through history, all the saints praised God for all they received, above all for the gifts of faith, grace and love. We all give thanks to God for the unique, incomparable gift of family – of our family.
On the last day of the year 2017, we thank you, Lord; we are sorry for our sins and failures, Lord; and we pray to you – please, Lord, help us even more the coming year. We love you Lord. Yes, Lord, for all that have been thanks! And, hopefully and prayerfully, for all that will be yes! – Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!
(Fausto Gomez OP, St. Dominic Priory [Macau], December 31, 2017)