Homily for the Feast of Holy Family Year C (2)

Homily for the Feast of Holy Family Year C

Theme: Code of family life

By: Fr. Jude Chijioke


Homily for Sunday December 26 2021

Sirach 3: 2-6,12-14; Colossians 3: 12-21; Luke 2, 41-52
“Whoever honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; whoever who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother” (Sir 3).
“Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged” (Col 3).
“When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2).

Three “familiar” pages with a different but complementary cut make up the liturgical lectionary of this celebration set in the Christmas atmosphere, full of glorious but also, dramatic moments. The first reading is taken from Sirach, an author whose work has come down to us in the Greek version about 132 BC. It had been called Ecclesiastical by the Christian tradition due to its frequent catechetical use by the ecclesial community: in fact, almost all the theology of Judaism converges in it.
The author, Jesus Ben Sira (hence the term “Sirach”), is an “enlightened conservator” who aims to work on traditional wisdom theology, an update that reflects the needs of an evolving society and sensitive to aspects of secular culture. Now, precisely in the initial description of the procession of virtues that must accompany wisdom, he places his love for parents: it is a warm and passionate comment on the fourth commandment. The dominant verb is, in fact, the honor of the Decalogue, a verb that indicates love, concrete help, respect, whose reward will be the divine blessing. Even in the biological and intellectual breakdown of old age, a parent is always a living sign of the love poured out by God in creation.
The second reading, on the other hand, offers us a “code of family life” modeled by Paul for the Colossian Christians on the physiognomy of Christ. In fact, “Forgive as the lord forgave you” (3, 13), Love as Christ loved you, so the root of the entire Christian existence must be love and forgiveness, as Christ has united in himself humanity in distress, so a believer must live his two fundamental social relations in unity and peace, that with his brothers in faith (3,12-15) and that with his family (3, 18-21). The Pauline code of the family is of course embodied in the socio-cultural conditioning of the time (“wives, be subjected to your husbands”, v. 18), but it retains a profound inspiration of human sensitivity, of loving dialogue that will be exalted in the famous page of c. 5 of the letter to the Ephesians, an ideal commentary on today’s text.

And at the top of the celebration is the family of Nazareth caught in a particular moment of its history, the visit to the Temple during the annual pilgrimage (Lk 2). Certainly, this passage has always had a rather psychological reading according to the angle of the events for some surprising and distressing aspects contained in certain lines of the narration. But the purpose of the Lucanian narrative is far from the concern to trace an anticipation of the generational crises of the modern family. As ancient art had well understood, the central nucleus of the scene is in Jesus “seated among the doctors, while he listened to them and questioned them” (v. 46). And this emblematic fact is commented on by the essential phrase that Jesus raises to the anxiety of Mary and Joseph: “Did you not know that I must take care of my Father’s affairs?” (v. 49) or, in a better version, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”.

Jesus is twelve years old and at this age the Jews celebrated what the Israelites today call the bar-mitzvah, that is, he entered the fullness of responsibility towards the Law and religion (the expression means precisely “son of the precept, of the commandment”). Jesus, having reached his official maturity, reveals his authentic reality as a Master and as a Son, distancing himself from the limited and daily framework within which he is also inserted.
And, therefore, the first great self-revelation that Jesus makes of his destiny, and the true faithful, like Mary, in order to grasp this mystery hidden under the guise of this young Jew must “keep these things in the heart” by pondering on them (2, 51; 2, 19). Mary now understands that for her too she must begin that tiring journey of faith that will make her discover the mystery hidden in her child, and that will make her lose her son more and more as her possession in order to have him as a saving gift from God at the foot of the cross.

The story of Mary is, then, that of every woman who must accept in her child his own project not hers, a project free and new of a different person. Therefore, she will never be able to consider her son as a personal possession on which to impose an already established destiny. But above all the story of Mary is that of every believer who “finds Jesus in the Father’s house after three days” (2:46). The third day in New Testament theology is the day of the resurrection, it is the day of Christ’s ascension into the “house of the Father” (Lk 24, 51.53). Finding Jesus in the “house of the Father” after three days is, therefore, the ultimate outlet of faith, it is a paschal announcement, it is an invitation to always seek Jesus where he really is.

Fr. Jude Chijioke

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