HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY YEAR C
THEME: BUILDING A HOLY FAMILY
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: We come from different families and our family backgrounds shaped us through the years. Jesus came from a family and we celebrate his family every first Sunday after Christmas. Today, there are so many definitions of family that are a far cry from the traditional and Christian understanding of family. Broadly speaking a family is a group of people who are related to each other. The Church defines family as “A divinely instituted community of persons made of husband, wife, children and relatives open to life in love.” The second Vatican Council Fathers speak of the family as a domestic Church. The Church in Nigeria emphasises the role of family as the first school of virtue, the first school of evangelization, the first school of faith, and an indispensable pastoral collaborator.
There are numerous devoted families that are mentioned in scriptures beside the Holy Family. One of such beautiful families mentioned in the Old Testament is the family of Elkanah and Hannah. This couple lived with the challenge of childlessness for many years, until they had Samuel. The family of Elkanah demonstrated a strong faith in God, despite their challenge and they never failed to express appreciation to God through offering sacrifice. As a mark of their faith, they offered their only son to the service of God in the temple.
In a special way we celebrate the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, popularly known as the Holy Family because they serve as a role model for Christian families and provide a portrait of how a Christian family should look like. Joseph cared for Mary during the period of her pregnancy even when he knew he was not responsible for her pregnancy; together, Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple for dedication; Joseph loved Mary and Mary respected Joseph and the child Jesus was obedient to his parents. Their family life fits perfectly into what St. Paul says to couples, “But every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). There are indications that Joseph and Mary collaborated well in the upbringing of Jesus. When he was missing, both of them anxiously searched for him and when they found him, Mary asked him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your Father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Luke 2:48). The action of Joseph and Mary goes a long way to say that a child’s upbringing is a collaborative effort of parents.
All families desire to be peaceful, loving and happy. However, in modern society there are common family challenges that can mitigate the flow of happiness and peace. Among these challenges are:
Financial Problems: This problem can come in various ways such as lack of sufficient money for the upkeep of the family; lack of transparency and openness about savings, income and investments; stinginess; reckless spending and lack of financial budgeting and planning. In traditional society, the man is responsible for all financial transactions, including the payment of bills for housing, clothes, fees, etc and the woman is responsible for all domestic chores. However, in modern society where many women are working, there is a paradigm shift as husband and wife share the bills and domestic chores according to the strength of each.
Leadership: The father is naturally the head of the house. St. Paul advises women to respect their husbands as they respect the Lord and to husbands, he says, “You’re your wives as Christ loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:24-25). Cases abound where fathers abdicate their responsibilities of caring for their families. A father is supposed to play the role of a shepherd or even pastor of his family, leading them in prayer and bringing them to the knowledge of the faith. Generally, husband and wife complement each other in the building their family.
Upbringing of Children: The Church says the “Primary role of parents is not just to pass genes unto their children, but also to bring them up in every aspect of life in the society.” These aspects of life include providing the children with adequate opportunity for civic and religious education. Some parents are willing to send their children to qualitative civic schools to obtain good education, but do not care much about the religious upbringing of their children.
Furthermore, there are children today who are passing through difficulties because they have lost their parents and are entrusted to foster parents. Some foster parents make good efforts to bring up these children well. In some family homes foster children are treated as slaves and as second-class children. I know of a 12 year old schoolgirl who is a foster child and unlike the other children in the house, she has to farm for people to get some money to pay her school fees.
As we celebrate the Holy Family today, let us strive to build God-centred families where God takes precedence and where peace, love and happiness reign.
Holy Family Sunday, Year C/ Samuel 1:20-22.24-28; 1 John 3:1-2. 21-24; Luke 2:41-52