Feast of the Holy Family, Year C

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HELMER REENBERG (1:26) First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy decorates Easter eggs with her children in the kitchen of the residence rented from Kennedy family friend C. Michael Paul in Palm Beach, Florida. Clockwise around table, from top: Caroline Kennedy; John F. Kennedy, Jr.; Mrs. Kennedy; and Under Secretary of the Navy Paul “Red” Fay’s daughters, Sally Fay and Kathy Fay.

God’s Blessings on All Our Families


On the last Sunday of the calendar year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. On this feast day we are offering our own families and all their members on the altar to ask God’s blessing on them and to obtain for them the guidance of the Holy Family.

Homily Starter Anecdote

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. 

Grandparents are a Treasure

Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children, and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would drop food on the dining table, drop and break bowls, and smear food all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table, a wooden bowl and spoon and set it off to the side of the dining room so the grandfather could eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family.

One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad. When you get old like Grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” (In the American version of the story, the boy was making a wooden bowl).

After that day, the grandfather was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 85rd birthday on December 17, 2021.

“Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it has lost its memory,” Pope Francis added.


Dying of Loneliness

In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).


“If you bungle raising your children…”

In a rare personal interview, granted not long before her death, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remarked: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do will matter very much” (Good Housekeeping, July 1994). For a woman whose wealth, education, background, and connections could have assured her a prestigious career in academia, politics or diplomacy, her statement may seem surprising. However, despite all the possibilities she could have pursued for herself, Mrs. Kennedy was convinced that family was ultimately the most important entity in her life; to her credit, she lived by that conviction. (Sanchez Files)

Click on chevron banners for additional insights into this week’s scripture in order to relate it to the lives of your parishioners.

Today’s Gospel

In today’s Gospel, Luke concludes his detailed story of Christ’s infancy, with the events of Jesus’ visit to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to become “a son of the Law” and to take up the obligations of the Law. Jesus lingered behind in the Temple, attending the Sanhedrin classes on religious and theological questions as an eager student of Mosaic Law.  Finally, when Mary and Joseph had found him in the Temple after three days of anxious search, Jesus reminded them that He “had to be” in his Father’s House. It was as if Jesus had had a blaze of realization about His Divine Sonship. The Gospel then summarizes the next 18 years of Jesus’ life, stating that Jesus grew up at Nazareth like any other young man, obeying his parents, faithfully discharging all his duties to God, to his parents, and to the community, “advancing in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the fifth joyful mystery in the Holy Rosary. Only St. Luke (2:41-50) reports the event of the child Jesus’ disappearing and then being found in the Temple. Jewish boys were made “sons of the Law” by presenting themselves in the Temple of Jerusalem when they become twelve years old.

The straight distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was 60 miles although the winding roads through the hills in Christ’s time made it 87 miles. On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, entire villages joined, breaking up into two groups; one of men, the other of women. Children could go with either group. This explains how Mary and Joseph could go the whole of their first day’s journey back to Nazareth before their shocked realization, when the families regrouped to camp for the night, that the boy Jesus was missing and had not been seen in either travel group all that day. So, they retraced their steps, searching everywhere, their fear mounting as the time passed with no word of Jesus.

It turned out that Jesus, attracted to some Jewish rabbis teaching Scriptures to boys in the Temple had joined them in their usual teaching place, in one of the Outer Courts. There, sitting at the feet of the teachers with the other listeners, Jesus joined in the lesson, now and again asking questions and, when asked, responding to them. His wise, well-informed questions and answers attracted the teachers’ attention.

Mary’s question and Jesus’ enigmatic response: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously!” In these words, Mary questioned Jesus for causing her and Joseph so much agony by remaining in the Temple without telling them beforehand, while all Jesus’ friends from Nazareth had traveled with their families. Bewildered and troubled, Jesus , not thinking to apologize, blurted out “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” or, “… about My Father’s business?” [The Greek en tois tou patros mou can be translated either way.] In either form, however, the question implies both Jesus’ awareness of the family’s common knowledge of Jesus’ coming mission, and of Jesus’ actual Father, God, and Jesus’ close personal relationship with God, His Father. These first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel both explain Jesus’ “truancy” and, affirming His Divine Sonship and determination to fulfill the will of His Eternal Father, tell them that Jesus’ earthly life involved an obedience to more than earthly parents. They did not then understand the full implications of what Divine Sonship would entail — that in terms of Jesus’ mission, relationship to God would necessarily take precedence over relationship to them. In this incident, one of a parent’s greatest sorrows afflicted Mary: not to understand her own child; this was one of the swords spoken of by Simeon (Luke 2:35). Mary referred to Joseph as Jesus’ father, but Jesus used the word pater to refer to God, the Creator. Jesus, by his bewildered counter-question, teaches us that, over and above any human authority, even that of our parents, we have the primary duty of doing the will of God. At age 12, Bar Mitzvah notwithstanding “doing the will of Jesus’ Heavenly Father” entailed obedience to Mary and Joseph, and Jesus willingly complied: “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

The Navarre Bible Commentary explains that Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus’ reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s Faith and their reverence towards the boy Jesus led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done on other occasions. Without fully understanding Jesus or the events that were unfolding in her family, Mary was willing to believe and trust in the wisdom of God. Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as Saint Joseph and earning His living by the sweat of His brow. This is the last reference to Saint Joseph in the Gospels and is a beautiful tribute to him: obedient to his guidance, Jesus grew to perfect manhood. Jesus grew in all ways – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually – being prepared for the work that lay ahead of Him. According Bible scholars the infancy narratives of Jesus in Mathew and Luke give us the “Christological moment.” That is, by their infancy narratives, both Mathew and Luke have pushed the moment of the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son back from the baptism (where Mark presents it: “You are My beloved Son”, Mark 1:11) to the time of Jesus conception and birth.

Life messages


We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family

By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, 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. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness, by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the 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. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).

We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom

A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage and gave them a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their 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.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented on TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.

Parents need to examine their consciences

On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you.” Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year.

Let us extend the boundaries of our family

The homeless man or woman today on the streets of a big city, fighting the cold, the rain, and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty, and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.

Marriage: a Sacrament of holiness

The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of priesthood and the Sacrament of marriage. Through the Sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support, and mutual loving respect. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after the children have grown up, left home, and have families of their own.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 


1: Long Training: A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest. She would like to know what this would require. So the priest begins to explain: “If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he’ll have to study for eight years. If he wants to become a Franciscan, he’ll have to study for ten years. If he wants to become a Jesuit, he’ll have to study for fourteen years.” [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.] The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. “Sign him up for that last one, Father — he’s a little slow!”

2) Encounter with an angry, Karate black-belt wife: A man left work on Friday afternoon, but instead of going home, he went partying with the boys and didn’t return till Sunday night. His wife was furious, and after a lengthy tirade finally said, “How would you like it, if you didn’t see me for two or three days?” “I’d like it just fine!” he slurred. And that’s what happened. All day Monday, he didn’t see her even once. Tuesday and Wednesday passed without his seeing her. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, he caught just a glimpse of her as the swelling of his eyes started to go down.

3) Shrewd girl: One day, a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a while, and said, “Momma, how come that grandma’s head is full of white hair?”

4) Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation. (Robert Orben).

5) “Nobody’s said hello yet.”  A woman was at home doing some cleaning when the telephone rang. In going to answer it, she tripped on a scatter rug and, grabbing for something to hold onto, seized the telephone table. It fell over with a crash, jarring receiver off the hook. As it fell, it hit the family dog, who leaped up, howling and barking. The woman’s three-year-old son, startled by this noise, broke into loud screams. The woman mumbled some colorful words. She finally managed to pick up the receiver and lift it to her ear, just in time to hear her husband’s voice on the other end say, “Nobody’s said hello yet, but I’m positive I have the right number.” (James Dent, Charleston, W.Va., Gazette).

6) Rent-a-family: It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. “We can do what any family does,” the newfangled entrepreneur joked. “We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they’ll have to call Rent-A-Wife. (Campus Life, October 1980).

7) Sue your parents! In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.
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HUCKABEE (3:59) “I pray that I live to see the day when we view the killing of an unborn child as patently immoral and equally repulsive as slavery.” -Mike Huckabee

The Family Valuables

Rabbi Neil Kurshan in his book Raising Your Child to be a Mensch (a Yiddish word for a person having admirable characteristics such as fortitude and firmness of purpose), tells this real story:

A young woman about to be married had come to the Rabbi for counseling. When she told the Rabbi that she hoped she would not make the same mistakes her parents had made, he pressed her to elaborate.

The woman explained that each summer her wealthy parents traveled to Europe while she remained behind with a nanny. One year, when the girl was 11, the housekeeper suddenly quit just shortly before her parents’ annual trip to Europe. Upset that their vacation might be jeopardized, the parents quickly found a replacement. A few days before their departure, the girl noticed that her mother had wrapped the family jewels and silverware and placed them in the safe. Since this had never been done before, she asked why. Her mother explained that she could not trust the new housekeeper with the family valuables.

Though certainly not intended, that insensitive remark so shocked and hurt the little girl that she never forgot it. Wasnt she a family valuable? Didn’t she have more value than silver knives and silver forks? That is a question all of us could ask about our attitudes toward dependent family members, young, old, or in-between, this Holy Family Day.


A Contagious Grace of Change

The following fable offers a powerful example of the contagious grace of change. The membership of a once numerous order of monks had dwindled over the years, until there were only five brothers left in what had been a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of the learning and spiritual renewal they found there. Now, no one ever visited as the spirit of the place and its inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.

One day, however, a rabbi happened by to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how they could revitalize themselves and make their monastery a spiritual center once again.

After a few moments, the rabbi replied, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

Flabbergasted, the brothers replied, “The Messiah among us? Impossible!”

As the weeks passed, the brothers puzzled over the rabbi’s startling revelation. If the Messiah were here, who would it be? Maybe, Brother Timothy . . . he’s the abbot and in his capacity as leader, he could surely be chosen to be the Messiah. It couldn’t be Bro. Mark; He’s always so argumentative, but, he’s usually right . . . Or maybe, it’s Bro. Pius who tends the garden and the animals. He could probably nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah. Surely, it could be Bro. Dominic; he’s studious, learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers. It couldn’t be Peter, could it? Certainly, the Messiah couldn’t be the one who cleaned toilets, dirty laundry and scrubbed the pots and pans each day. Or, could it?

Since the monks were unable to determine which one of them was the Messiah, they began to treat one another as though each were the one. Moreover, just in case he himself might be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity.

Within a few weeks, the monastery’s occasional visitors were awed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirituality they experienced. They returned again and again and brought new friends along. Soon, a few young men asked to be admitted to the order and the monastery thrived again.

Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words, “the Messiah is one of you.” How much more might spouses love and cherish one another . . . how much more might parents value their children, protect them, teach them, and lovingly attend to their needs . . . how much more might children honor and appreciate their parents. If each member of every family were to reverence one another as the Messiah, i.e., as Jesus who is our Savior and brother, how much might that strengthen and secure those familial bonds that are the infrastructure, without which our society has no future. (Sanchez Files).

Hourly Wage

A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”

The father is surprised and says, “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?” replies the boy.

“Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said.

“Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The 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?”

Don’t be Afraid of Your Emotions 

In his book My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes a moving interview with Mark Chapman, the convicted slayer of Beatle John Lennon. At one point in the interview, Chapman says: “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me…I needed emotional love and support. I never got that.” Chapman’s description of how he would treat a son if he had one is especially tragic, because he will probably never get out of prison and have a family of his own. He says: “I would hug my son and kiss him…and just let him know…he could trust me and come to me…and (I would) tell him that I loved him.”

Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and sons. It applies equally well to mothers and daughters. “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care. Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him. “Don’t wait until the deathbed to realize what you’ve missed.”  (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).

Equal in the eyes of God

Former President Jimmy Carter recently decided to leave the Baptist Church to which he had belonged for sixty years.  The reason was doctrinal disagreement. The Southern Baptist Convention had just codified that women are responsible for original sin and hence subservient to their husbands.

President Carter disagreed. He said: “This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the Holy Scripture – that we are all equal in the eyes of God. … This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or Faith. Consequently, they are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many Faiths and led to some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant, and damaging examples of human-rights abuses.”  So, Jimmy Carter’s conscience could no longer allow him to be part of his lifelong Church.

The Feast of the Holy Family challenges the spouses to love and respect each other.

The Seven C’s of Family Life

One of TV’s highest rated program of all time was The Cosby Show. It was a weekly sitcom about an upper-middle-class black family, which for all practical purposes, had become America’s First Family. In a feature article about Bill Cosby, Newsweek magazine said that his show about the Huxtables is endearing not cutesy, its parents are hassled but never hapless and there is clowning but no guff. The Cosby Show was popular because the family situations it portrayed had an air of universality and reality about them. Any family could identify with both the irritations and misunderstandings that arise on the show, and with the truly humorous and heartwarming things that happen. While Dr. Cliff Huxtable, his lawyer-wife Clair and their four children may not be the perfect counterpart of the Holy Family, they do picture for us in modern terms what some of the qualities of family life should be.

The seven ‘C’s of family life are: commitment, communication, compatibility, compassion, confession, conviviality, and children. They sum up today’s readings about how to become a holy family instead of a broken family. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by  Fr. Botelho). 

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