The baby born in Bethlehem had two natures: the nature of God and the nature of man. “Although we believe it, we find it difficult to imagine,” writes Father Hawkswell, and “Indeed, the Church’s belief was attacked repeatedly right from the beginning.” (Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)
This Sunday, the Church presents the Holy Family as a model. Unfortunately, many people cannot see it that way. They know that Mary was, and remained, a virgin, so they picture Joseph as an elderly man called by God merely to protect her reputation and her Child.
No, said Pope St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”).
While Joseph was still seeking a way out of the “difficult situation” caused by Mary’s pregnancy, an angel told him, “Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
So we can see today’s Gospel as a meditation on love and the trust that it entails. It is not the case that Joseph and Mary have failed to trust in their son, who is also their Lord. They simply don’t see that the demands of love continually unfold, and trust, as part of love makes more demands as the years go by. Every parent will find themselves at some point challenged by this, as they see how their children grow and become their own person. The child begins as utterly dependent on their parents, and as such, they are a sort of extension of them. This is why the Church allows infant baptism. Evangelicals who say rightly, that baptism requires faith, do not see that the faith that precedes baptism in a very young child is the faith of the parents or carers. It is good for the child to be with Christ from the outset. Jesus is, as it were, with his own divinity. That is one of his titles after all, Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. God is with us through Christ, so children should be given that divine presence from the earliest possible time.
It seems to me that this Feast of the Holy Family could not be more exquisitely positioned on the calendar: just after Christmas which tends to bring out both the best and the worst in our family experience and just before New Year’s – the time for making resolutions, a moment to examine our own family life and resolve to mend, heal, fix, repair and restore whatever’s broken, wounded and failing in our family relationships.
Unfortunately, many, perhaps even most of us, will fail in this regard.
Only two of the four Gospels tell us anything about the life of Jesus between the time of his birth and his baptism. Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke describe his infancy and of his childhood. It is therefore, in these two Gospels that we find all the Christmas stories and all the descriptions of the Holy Family, whose feast we celebrate today. What is distinctive about these stories is that along with all the incidents of love and joy, there are clearly other incidents that involve trouble and pain. In these stories, we hear of a wicked king, who slaughters innocent children. We see Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt to protect the newly born child. We hear a prophecy which says that a sword of sorrow will pierce Mary’s heart. In today’s Gospel, we see the parents of Jesus in great anxiety, searching Jerusalem for three days to find their lost son.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family. Family life, in general and under the best circumstances, is a challenge to understand, even for those members living within the family. This Holy Family received messages from the Angel, experienced a virgin birth, left home and traveled to Egypt (and returned), responded to dreams, and was the custodian of the living God, Jesus. What is striking about the Holy Family is how cohesive it was, each member understanding his or her role and giving their all to fulfill it. They were all willing participants in God’s divine plan. All three were moved by trust in God the Father and to welcome the salvation of the world.
“‘God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God.’ … God is not ‘falling in love,’ but family, shared existence. The God of the incarnation lives in a family, a trinity, a community of shared existence. Hence, to say that God is love is to say that God is community, family, shared existence, and whoever shares his or her existence inside of family and community experiences God and has the very life of God flow through him or her.” (Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing)
For the Catholic family to function as God meant it to function, there must be certain fundamentals. The family must be centered on the real presence of God’s love. This springs from a sacramental union of husband and wife. Sacramental union. Sadly, some people are more concerned with their wedding than they are with their marriage. They willing sacrifice the sacrament of matrimony for a sunset. But just as the secular celebration of Christmas quickly fades away on December 26th, a secular marriage will quickly fade into a simple remembrance of a wonderful party. What is needed, what is necessary for a real marriage, a Christian marriage, a Catholic marriage, is the presence of Jesus. The sacrament of matrimony is the union of Jesus Christ to the love of the husband and wife.
Probably the most important, basic element in any healthy culture or society is the family. To a large degree, the health and stability of families determine the future of any city or nation. Spouses who live with love and commitment have a tremendous influence on their children. And the manner in which parents rear and teach their children will have lasting effects for the future. Unfortunately, there has been a terrible breakdown in American family life these last several years. This is evident in the way so many older teens and young adults have behaved in the past year or so, in the havoc they have perpetrated in some of our cities.
The visitation of Elizabeth by Mary is about bodies: pregnant bodies, a kicking foetus, sounds reaching ears, and mouths speaking. Elizabeth hears and believes and proclaims. Our attention is drawn to her hearing and her speaking. Even the movement of the child within her womb is a revelation. Revelation is communicated to Elizabeth and faith is established in her through physical events: her meeting with Mary, their conversation, John the Baptist leaping in her womb, with the Spirit working through these things. Not just spirit, but spirit and flesh. Likewise in the second reading from Hebrews we are told that Jesus, on coming into the world, is given a body. By presenting Christ’s taking flesh in this way, Hebrews tell us a number of things about the mystery of the Incarnation. They tell us first about the importance of the body, of Christ’s body. Christmas is a very physical affair.
If anything, Christianity—and especially Catholicism—takes human flesh seriously. Our central mystery is the Incarnation —God’s “enfleshment,” the necessary condition for the life and teachings of Jesus, his redemptive death, and his glorious resurrection.
God marries our human flesh and finiteness. In Jesus the eternal Word of God becomes wombed in time. Thus, we who bear his name and live his life are a people who see the transcendent in the particularities of names, places, historical events.
After the birth of Jesus, we come back to this family of Nazareth to see how it’s faring. Now, it’s no longer just about a couple but a question of parenting comes in. What inspiration can we draw from this Holy Family for our families today?
I’m a little worried as I ask the question: how can the holy family inspire our own families today? The danger is that instead of giving us a part on back, depending on the manner we present it, the holy family may leave us feeling like we are in the doc where we are exposed and judged. This may come from spiritualisation of this family to the point that we drain it empty of its human quality; in the end it’s no longer a family to which we can relate -we feel miles far away.
Friends, families teach us that we don’t always get to choose the people we love, but we’re given people that we’re then called upon to love. On this Feast of the Holy Family, let’s meditate upon the importance of this calling.
Sunday Podcast Archive
The podcasts on this page are from the archives of Bishop Barron who has been doing them for over 20 years. All of the podcasts below relate to this Sunday Readings.
Lots of people today will tell you what makes a family well-adjusted, functional, and peaceful. But in this week’s readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, which center on two exemplary women, Hannah and Mary, the Church wants to tell us what makes a family holy.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, shares thoughts on preaching pro-life for the Feast of the Holy Family. The family is the basic cell of society and is where life to be most welcomed and nurtured.
Father Frank Pavone
The Sanctuary of Life
Sir 3:2-6, 12-14
Year A: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23
Year B: Lk 2:22-40 or 2, 22. 39-40
Year C: Lk 2:41-52
The family is the “Sanctuary of Life” and the basic cell of society. The Holy Family, of course, is unique. One member is God, another is sinless, and the third is a saint. But the great lesson of today is that although God could have come into the world in any way he pleased, he chose to become a member of a family, obedient to his earthly parents, and yet totally devoted to the Heavenly Father’s will, as we all must be.
He also shared the vulnerability that comes with being a member of a human family. “Herod is going to search for the child in order to destroy him.” St. Joseph here plays the unspeakable role of protecting God. His readiness to do so, in the person of his child, speaks to every father about the role of protector, and to our whole society about the need we have for good fathers. The culture of life depends just as much on fathers making the right choices as on mothers doing so.
Strong families are an integral aspect of the Culture of Life. Today’s preaching can focus on that fact. It is precisely the breakdown of family structure that increases the temptation to abort, or to resort to euthanasia or a lack of proper care for the elderly. On the other hand, the communion of persons that comes from giving oneself away to the other in selfless love is what creates the proper context for saying a generous “yes” to life. A helpful lesson to point out from the very word “family” is that it stands for “Forget About Me; I Love You.”
Celebrant: God humbled himself to be born of a human family, and sanctified family life forever. For the needs of our families and our world, we now pray.
That the many ministries of the Church may strengthen family life throughout the world, we pray to the Lord…
That governments may protect the institution of marriage, made by God as the union between one man and one woman, we pray to the Lord…
That the family may become ever more the sanctuary of life, where all are welcomed as a gift rather than a burden, we pray to the Lord…
That families burdened by divorce, abuse, or alienation may seek and find the help of the Holy Family, we pray to the Lord…
That our family members who are ill may enjoy the consolation of the Lord and the presence of their loved ones, we pray to the Lord…
That our family members who have died may be welcomed into eternal life, we pray to the Lord…
we thank you for the gift
of life and family.
Answer all our prayers,
and bring all people into your family of grace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sanctuary of Life
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Though he was conceived of a virgin, Jesus nevertheless lived as a son in a human family — a family which points the way for the rest of us.
The family is the sanctuary of life. There can be no life without family, and there can be no family without life. The family, above all, is where life is to be welcomed, no matter how fragile or inconvenient it may be.
One of the many reasons why the St. John Paul II, in “The Gospel of Life” encyclical, identifies abortion and euthanasia as pre-eminent issues is because these crimes are committed by one family member upon another.
Christ is being born in the minds and hearts of children who visit the Christmas crib. He is being born in the hearts of young adults, who this Christmas might be touched by the Spirit to rediscover their religious faith. Christ is being born as older people retell the Christmas story to the younger ones.
John, the last Apostle of Jesus Christ, survived long enough in this world to live until the second century after the birth of Christ recorded the future of mankind in the Book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. It may seem fanciful, speaking of Christ as the light, but where else do we have “all that is good” but in God, the source of our life and light, of Truth and Justice. Light was the first act of creation and the first measure of the Son of God as Man in John’s gospel – the first and the last light which shines in the world which the darkness will not overcome – waiting for the future in the Book of Revelation where the Lamb of God illumines heaven “who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
The great lesson human beings have to learn is that our glory is humility, not intelligence. Wisdom is the result of having a great deal of experience in being wrong, and only those with memory can benefit from such experience; everyone is wrong most of the time, but so few there are who remember it, who do not suppress the experience and who will instead reflect upon it.
LIFEISSUES.NET WEBSITE PUBLISHES ARTICLES DIRECTLY RELATED TO ISSUES RAISED IN EVANGELIUM VITAE, AND RELATED HOMILIES BY FR. AL CARIÑO, O.M.I., FR. TONY PUEYO, AND OTHERS.
U.K. Woman Arrested Twice for Silent Prayer | EWTN Pro-Life Weekly | Thursday, March 23, 2023
Pro-Abortion Measures Could Be on the Ballot in Ohio and Missouri | Pro-Life Weekly | March 23, 2023
CENSORED: How Can Pro-life Americans Fight Back Against Big Tech? | Pro-Life Weekly | March 23, 2023
FULL EPISODE: EWTN Pro-Life Weekly | Thursday, March 23, 2023
Rep. Ayanna Pressley Wants YOU To Praise Abortionists | EWTN Pro-Life Weekly | March 23, 2023
Please be patient
as page loads
A SERMON FOR EVERY SUNDAY (15:39) –The Rev. Mandy England Cole preaches a sermon from Luke 2:41-52 called “Jesus Gets Grounded.” She begins: “Have you ever wondered if Jesus had to sit in timeout as a toddler, if he ever had to stay behind at school and write sentences on the chalkboard, if he was ever grounded as a teenager?” When she asked her own twelve-year-old why this story is included in the Gospel he said, “Because he was choosing the church on his own for the first time, and why wouldn’t they include that in the story?” Oh, the wisdom of a twelve-year-old!
But for Mary and Joseph, like us, the time passed way too quickly. One day, Jesus was a child in a manger…another day, he was a 12-year-old asking questions in the temple. One day, Mary watched him playing with his friends…another day she watched him die on the cross. This week, we celebrate Christmas and the birth of a Savior…in just eight weeks we will enter the Season of Lent and consider the death of a Savior. Until the advent of the VCR, I never heard the phrase “fast forward” but it exactly describes our lives. Time passes, just like that.
What lesson do you need to glean from this gospel text that stands before us today? Do you need to learn that you should enjoy each day of your life to the fullest, because you do not know what tomorrow holds? That’s something I need to learn. It seems like so much of my time is spent rehashing something that has happened in the past, or dreaming about something that might come in the future. As a result, I don’t fully appreciate each day. Someone once said “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yet here, but today is a gift; that’s why it’s called ‘the present.’” In the New Year, I want to slow down a little bit and savor my moments more. If I made resolutions, that would be one.
Luke is keen to point out that Jesus was a true Israelite and that his upbringing in the home, his participation in religious ritual, his moral training by pious parents and teachers indicate that he was raised in true Judaistic fashion. Later during his ministry no one could say that Jesus’ radical teaching was a result of misguided influences during childhood or because he was brought up without any religious training. The Jewish Law states that a boy at the end of his 13th year must go through the ceremony of “bar mitzvah” which means “son of the law”. It was a boy’s introduction to adulthood. If he had already undergone his “bar mitzvah” then he was obeying the command to attend the Passover. Or perhaps Joseph and Mary were taking Jesus as part of his preparation for his responsibilities as an adult Israelite.
Mary and Joseph travelled the ninety miles to Jerusalem in a convoy of friends and relatives from Nazareth. There was greater safety in large numbers. So it isn’t surprising that when the group headed north back to Nazareth no one noticed that a twelve year old was missing. Everyone assumed Jesus was with someone else, probably off playing with the cousins. It wasn’t until they had travelled a full day that they realized Jesus was not with them.
When our kids were little, we took them to the mall to see all the Christmas stuff. Our youngest son, Christopher, was four years old. I wandered into a bookstore with what I thought was Chris by my side. I looked down only to find somebody else’s child standing beside me. “Chris?” I called. No answer. “Honey, is Chris with you?” I called to Donna behind the stacks. “I thought he was with you,” she answered. We panicked. The mall was packed with shoppers. She went in one direction, I went in the other. We looked everywhere. No sign of Chris. We met back at the front door of the mall. I stared out into the darkness. Suddenly, I got an inspiration. I bolted across the parking lot, and there I found one small, brave little four-year-old boy clinging to the door handle of the car for dear life. Donna and John and Patrick were right behind. We grouped up and stood there hugging each other, laughing and crying for what seemed like an eternity.
Growing up is essential to children, but where does it end? Does there ever come a time when you no longer need to grow in faith and understanding? Do you ever reach a place where it’s O.K. to kick back, take your ease and be content with where you are on your faith journey?
There’s always more to learn, isn’t there? There’s always room for improvement. The problem is personal growth doesn’t just happen; you have to work at it. And this is my thesis in the sermon today: Just as children must work at walking and talking and doing all the things that healthy children do, so must we work at growing in faith, hope and love.
My hunch is we stop growing too soon. We pick up expressions of faith and theological insights at some point – hopefully, as little children in Sunday school – but then, instead of continuing to grow over a lifetime of study and reflection, we repeat what we learned as children over the course of our lives.
The modern version of this story (Luke 2:41-52) would have Joseph and Mary being investigated by Child Welfare and landing in front of a judge because they “lost their 12 year old kid.” The media would jump on the story and demand to know how any good parents could travel an entire day’s journey and not know their kid was missing.
Or, the modern version of this story could focus on the divinely delinquent Jesus who decides not so much to run away from home as just not to go home. This modern version would say that 12 year old Jesus simply decided to do his own thing in the big city and never even considered the plight of his parents.
Either way, the modern versions don’t sit nearly as well as the Biblical version we have before us. And just why is that? I think it’s largely because we’ve sweetened and sanitized this story. What the modern versions bring out is the inherent panic, scariness and immediacy that unfolds as two distraught parents discover their son is missing and potentially lost in Jerusalem!
Leave a Reply