From the Pulpit: Dec 31, 2017

December 31, 2017                                     Holy Family Sunday

Introduction—Legacy

Often times when I meet with the family to prepare the funeral mass for their loved one, the final question I always ask is, “what is that person‘s legacy?”

  • Usually, there’s all kinds of different answers.
  • However, more often than not, some of the more common answers are, “they taught us the value of hard work”. Or, as family we need to take care of each other.” Or “family is one of the most important things that there is, always treasure each other.”

Readings

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. In doing so, we are reminded of the importance of family life.

  • We have two readings for this weekend that really focus our energy and attention on family life.

Sirach 

The first one is our reading from the book of Sarah. Sirach is one of the latest of the Old Testament Scriptures.

  • If you listen to it carefully, it really is a commentary and an expansion of the fourth commandment.
  • If you remember, the fourth commandment is simple and to the point and goes like this, “Honor your father and your mother.”
  • You may not know this, but this commandment also has a promise attached to it. The promise is “you shall lead a long life.”
  • In these few words, Sirach implores children to remember their mother and father. It reminds them, to be obedient and reverent toward their parents.
  • Additionally, adult children should have respect and care for their parents once they suffer the effects of aging.

Gospel 

Even though the gospel that we have today is short, it’s actually part of a larger piece call the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

  • In that scene we meet two people: Simeon and Anna who have been waiting because God promised them they would see the Messiah before their deaths.
  • Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord according to the Law of Moses.
  • Both Anna and Simeon are there and praise God for the wonder of gazing upon the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.
  • The short gospel piece that we have today is a summary of what took place in the temple.
  • Curiously enough, it says something along these lines, “they returned to Galilee and there the child grew and he became strong and was filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.”
  • We don’t have very many stories or references to the childhood of Jesus. However, this little sentence tells us something important. It reminds us that God truly became a human being in every sense except sin.
  • That means that as a child Jesus, although God, had to learn everything just like you and I.
  • Not only did he grow physically, but he also grew intellectually and spiritually as well.
  • He had to learn how to talk, how to walk and how to read.
  • The presence of God was manifested in each of the stages of his life, development, and growth.

Holy Family

The gospel also reminds us that this took place in the living example and support of a family.

  • Jesus was nurtured by Mary and Joseph.
  • Joseph was the example of how to work and how to play.
  • Mary would have been the example of what it was like to be kind, sensitive and caring.
  • From both Mary and Joseph, Jesus learned the Scriptures and how to pray.
  • It’s consoling to know that Jesus, “the word made flesh,” grew up in a family just like you and I.
  • Jesus learned to love, to work, pray and live from Joseph and Mary.

Painting entitled, “Flight into Egypt.” By Luc Olivier Merson

The whole interplay of the Holy Family is captured beautifully in a painting that is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

  • It is entitled, Flight into Egypt, by Luc Olivier Merson.
  • It depicts what might have been a very long journey and the holy family totally exhausted, at rest.
  • The Blessed mother and little Jesus are nestled between the paws of an Egyptian Sphinx.
  • Jesus is there cuddled in his mother’s arms.
  • Mary is protecting and holding him in such a way that neither would have been comfortable without the other being comfortable.
  • A short Distance away at the base of the sphinx you find St. Joseph.
  • He is a sleep near a diminishing fire and a donkey.
  • Although Joseph is exhausted, he has placed himself in such a position that no one could even come near the Blessed mother and the child without having first to go through him.
  • The positioning of Mary and Joseph beautifully illustrate the challenges of the family life.
  • They also remind us of the need to be with and care for each other.

Gospel Challenge

Here’s the gospel challenge for this week. Perhaps it might be one of the more difficult gospel challenges that we’ve had.

1. This week, reach out to a family member who annoys you the most. In other words, secretly do something nice and constructive for that person. Do something that will make their life a little easier or a little better.

2.If you live by yourself or with your spouse, then in the next couple of days reach out to a family member that maybe you haven’t heard from him for a long time or a family member that seems to be distant from you

3.Or if there is a family member that you’ve been alienated from for a long time, ask Jesus to help you to be reconciled during this coming New Year.

Conclusion

Our Christmas celebration continues this weekend.

  • During these Christmas days, the church asks us to reflect upon the beauty of the Lord’s nativity.
  • As part of that, there is a reminder that Jesus grew in grace and wisdom before the Father.
  • This happened in the context of family life.
  • Yes, the Father blesses all of us with family life.
  • Let us treasure the gift of family.