In the gospel today on this feast of the Holy Family, we hear the rich story of the flight into Egypt. Joseph is the man who is deeply committed to his family. He is willing to take great risks, endure tremendous hardships, become homeless and a refugee for the sake of his family.
This scene in the gospel reminds us that no family – including the holy family – is free of worries and problems. This is the story of every family.
On this feast, as we look at our beautiful crib scene, we are invited to examine our own family. The family is not merely a basic social unit; it was designed by God. Family life takes lots of caring, cooperation, compromise, and work on each person’s part. There are no perfect families; yet this feast calls us to look beyond the limitations and idiosyncrasies of each other, recognizing the face of God in one another.
In family life, we discover what kind of people we really are. In the last century, nothing has been more battered and broken or changed more than the family. So many of our families have suffered divisions caused by divorce or death, limitations brought on by financial problems or sickness.
So many wives and husbands have stopped communicating as their marriages begin to fall apart. So many hearts of parents are broken as their children in early teenage life or later declare independence from the family, from morality, from the church, from the authority of any kind.
Single-parent homes have become the norm rather than the exception. Divorces equal or out-number marriages; more than a million and a half abortions are performed every year. Recreational sexual activity is standard even down into grade school; many couples live together with little or no lasting commitment: all of these things tell us that family life is no longer a value in our society.
On this feast of the Holy Family, what is the Church calling us to do about the breakdown of the family? We can examine our conscience to see if we have fallen for society’s lack of values. We can ask ourselves, have we lost our sense of sin? Have we abandoned our traditional moral and family values? Are we caught up in the false notion that material things are the answer to our happiness?
Another major cause of the family breakdown is the lack of quality family time together; in how many families is there even time to eat a meal together? Parents, give your children your time and attention, not only gifts and money. Give them encouragement to become somebody in life.
Don’t constantly put them down and tell them how worthless they are. Teach them how to pray, show them how to pray, pray with them. Help them to grow in the practice of thanking God for every day and for everything He gives them. Be sure that you and they celebrate mass every Sunday.
As you would never intentionally feed your children poison, don’t poison their spirit by not paying attention to what they see you doing and hear you saying.
A word to children! Help your parents and love them and respect them.
On this feast of the Holy Family, all of us need to meditate on what our family should be. Home is not a stopping place where they have to take you when all else fails. Home and family must be the primary unit of society, or there is no society. Families need to grow together, share together, pray together and play together.
The best advice for all families was given by Saint Paul 2,000 years ago, and it still has meaning for us today. “Bear with one another. Forgive one another. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.”
On this feast of the Holy Family, enjoy your family and put differences aside. Call a family member who you have not spoken to for whatever the reason – because someday it will be too late. Time will run out for your immediate and extended family – one by one they will be gone so take advantage of the time you have!