Monday, December 31, 2012

Scripture Readings: The Feast of the Holy Family

First Reading: Sirach 3: 2-7, 12-14

Children, hear the judgment of your father, and so do that you may be saved. For God has made the father honourable to the children: and seeking the judgment of the mothers, has confirmed it upon the children. He that loves God, shall obtain pardon for his sins by prayer, and shall refrain himself from them, and shall be heard in the prayer of days. And he that honours his mother is as one that lays up a treasure. He that honours his father shall have joy in his own children, and in the day of his prayer he shall be heard. He that honours his father shall enjoy a long life: and he that obeys the father, shall be a comfort to his mother.
            Glory not in the dishonour of your father: for his shame is no glory to you. For the glory of a man is from the honour of his father, and a father without honour is the disgrace of the son. Son, support the old age of your father, and grieve him not in his life

Second Reading: Colossians 3: 12-21

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord has forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
            Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoves in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.

Gospel: Luke 2: 41-52

And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch. And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem. And his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
            And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why have you done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father's business?  And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
            And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.


Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, the day in which we meditate on the strange fact that Christ lived, and still does live, in a recognizable family unit comprised of a very human, very real mother and father, to whom He was and is obedient and responsible.
            You see, it wasn’t enough for God to become Man simply by taking on flesh. If He had simply dropped from the sky in human form, He wouldn’t have been an actual man. I don’t know what He would have been, but it wouldn’t have been a man. A man is not just his flesh and bone; a man is not just DNA or a functional body. All that matters, but it only adds up to a real person if it’s combined with experiences, chief among which is the family.
            The family is the primeval human institution. Before there were farms, before there was ritual, before there were nations or towns or religions, there was the father, the mother, and their children. The Book of Genesis describes Adam as unable to be fully human, unable to be all that God meant him to be, until the creation of Eve.
            Man, woman, and child is an image of the Holy Trinity; separate, distinct, yet equal parties, all necessary for the full unit. Neither man nor woman can create life on their own, but the union between them can never be complete unless they do, and a child cannot be all that he would be unless he has both mother and father in his life (as recent years have painfully demonstrated).
            It was into this primeval context that Jesus entered the world, beginning His earthly ministry by blessing the family with His presence. Jesus grew up knowing He was loved by His mother and foster-father. He grew up in the same way almost every other child did, being nurtured, instructed, inspired, and (in the memorable incident described in the Gospel reading) even corrected by His parents.
The mystery of the family, the interplay of love, honor, and obedience, is explored in the other two readings (confession: my church used alternate readings today, but I’m still using these ones, because I like them and I can). As Paul outlines it, the father’s primary virtue is love; putting his family before himself, giving all that he has for them. The mother’s primary virtue is humility (don’t freak out, ladies; it’s better than it sounds); setting her own will and wishes aside for the good of the family, trusting that her husband will do the right thing. The child’s primary virtue is obedience; being willing to learn from their parents, to follow their example, and to trust that they have his best interest at heart.
            Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, obeyed and learned from His parents; Mary, the greatest human being of all time, submitted to her husband; Joseph, an ordinary man, took responsibility for his extraordinary wife and son.
            So, what’s our excuse?
Vive Christus Rex!

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