Homily for the Feast of Holy Family Year C
Theme: Model of our families
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday December 26 2021
Sirach 3:2-6. 12-14
There is a story told of Emperor Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. Once he had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “The half of my wealth,” was his reply. “And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will give myself.” Cyrus was so moved by his devotion to his family that he freed them all.
As they returned home, the Prince said to his wife,
“Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man?!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you – the one who was willing to give himself for me.”
Beloved in Christ, the Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church today as a model for our families. We call them “The Holy Family” but that does not mean that they did not have problems. Just as every family has to face problems and overcome them, or to put it another way, has to carry a cross, so also The Holy Family had to carry crosses. Their many crosses come to mind as we read the Scriptures.
First, Mary, the mother got pregnant out of wedlock mysteriously- she was a virgin and the father, Joseph was not the biological father of the child. Secondly, how difficult it would be traveling with a wife who was close to child-birth, having trouble finding a place to stay, raising a child away from home in exile- being afraid for the life of the new child and fleeing into Egypt. Quite a difficult start to a marriage, don’t you think?!
The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families. But why is it that we call this Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – “Holy?” This family is holy because God is present in it and also it is responsive to the demanding word of God spoken in the very trying circumstances of their daily lives. The measure of a holy family is not found in what does – or does not – happen to its members. Rather, a holy family is one that demonstrates a certain grace and confidence when faced with the events of daily living, especially the unexpected ones.
The family as the basic unit of the church and society should be a place where mutual respect and love are fostered. Whenever our families are successful, it’s because they are places of love. If ever they fall apart anyway, it’s because someone has failed to love in some way.
One major reason families are falling apart is that they don’t spend enough time together. The parents are so busy working during the week and partying on weekends. The children are busy socializing, watching TV or playing computer video games and they have less and less time to spend together. Yet, some parents who are around their children often are not better either. Some of such parents have constituted terrible influence on their children and have become immediate obstacle to their children’s growth in virtue. When your children can witness you curse and quarrel with neighbours, but can never claim to have seen you praying; can we say you are building a holy family?
The book of Sirach reminds us of the privileged position parents occupy in the family and in the eyes of God. Children are therefore called to honour, revere, be kind and be patient toward their parents, especially in old age when their mind begins to fail them. Sirach reminds us that obedience to parents is tantamount to obedience to God. For great blessings await those who glorify their fathers and bring comfort to their mothers. Good relationship with one’s parents strengthens one’s relationship with God and his prayers are heard by God (Cf. Sir. 3:2-3). The commandment “Honour your father and your mother” is not dependent on any condition. It is not the case that “I will honour my father if he takes care of us and provide our needs.” Even if your father is the most irresponsible man on earth, you have the command from God to honour him. Leave God to punish him for his irresponsibility and cruelty towards you. Just keep God’s commandment and give your parents the honour due to them as your parents, who brought you into this world.
Meanwhile, in the second reading, St. Paul while admonishing the Colossians on how to live a better community life also spares some words of admonition for individual family. Paul’s advice to wives “wives be subject to your husbands” may be quite a bitter pill for many women of today. But we have to bear in mind that this letter was written to a society living in a very patriarchal era. So to our women today Paul may say – wives, consult with your husbands, understand their own point of view and come to joint decision and support each other.
Some parents provoke their children to anger through physically using their size advantage. This could be physical—hitting, kicking, intimidation—or verbal abuse. Some parents, fathers in particular beat their children unnecessarily. They’ll shame their children in front of other children by saying things like, “You’re so stupid,” “You failed again,” “You’re an idiot.” Etc. Such violence is sinful. This makes some children grow up to rage against their parents, particularly their father.
While we are obliged to honour our parents, if your parents ever order you to do something that goes against God’s law, then not only are you allowed to say no, but God wants you to say no. Acts 5:29 says that we must obey God rather than man. Now, you and I are not Jesus. If we find ourselves in opposition to legitimate authority, we cannot assume an intuitive knowledge of God’s will. We always ask the Father to “lead us” and to “deliver us from evil.” The evil one can trick a person into thinking, “I am following God,” or “I am following my conscience,” when he is actually following Satan. We need prayer and discernment of spirits. Am I directed by the Holy Spirit or by the evil spirit?
Every family would really love to be a model family, but this would just be impossible if we do not have space for God in our families. In all things, we must begin with our relationship with God. We must put Christ at the centre of our lives and in all our relationships if we want to have a firm foundation for love and unity. We must heed the words of St Paul, “And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.” With the peace of Christ in our hearts, we can then love each other in sincerity and truth.
Today’s feast then is a time for each family to reflect and go back to the Holy family of Nazareth, to learn and re-learn the things that God has designed and willed for each of the human family through which he came into the world.
Let us on this feast of the Holy Family, pray to Mary, Joseph and Jesus to help us strengthen the family that God has given to us.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*