Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Feast of the Holy Family - Christ in/is the centre of the Christian Family

If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 3,2-6.12-14; Col 3,12-21; Lk 2:41-52

The book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach is one of the seven books of the Old Testament considered as Apocryphal by Protestants, but declared as divinely inspired by the Council of Trent in 1546. In the text chosen for the feast of today, the author speaks about family relationships, but addresses specifically children whom he urges to respect and honour their parents. This kindness besides being remembered will also serve as reparation for sin.

In the text from Colossians, the author gives his readers the motivation for living other centred lives: They are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”. Since the Lord has forgiven them, they also must forgive. Above all else, they must clothe themselves with love.

The reading from the Gospel of Luke tells us how, Mary and Joseph also obeyed God and did all that was required of them by the law. As the parents of Jesus, they were not exempted from their spiritual obligations to the Jewish law. They also had to present Jesus at the Temple to the Lord, offering the necessary sacrifice that was required by law. This they did to show their fidelity and obedience to God’s law.

The pressures of secularism and modern life have again reduced the significance of family life in the lives of most people. Busy schedules, increased alienation from each other, and the inability on the part of some to keep up with the fast pace of life, means that families spend much less time together.. Prayer before meals is a thing of the past since families very rarely have a meal together. For many, family life is restricted to socially required ceremonies at births, weddings, and funerals. The result has been that God has receded from the awareness and experience of everyday family life. Many assume that God is found only in certain places, in sacred buildings, in holy books, or in observances led by holy persons. Their lives, on the other hand, move in a secular realm devoid of the presence of the holy. Daily experiences of the fullness of life are reduced and impoverished. They have no meaning beyond themselves, no opening to transcendence. Little room for mystery remains in the everyday as it becomes increasingly subject to secularism and technology.

Reflection on the readings and the feast of today challenge us to look at ourselves and our family life anew. We are called to rediscover the simple joys of being together, of everyday experience through shared meals and simply spending time with each other. We need to learn that, even as individuals, we are not islands, but relational beings. We have come into this world because of family and it is through family that we can continue to sustain ourselves in the world.

Thus the feast of the Holy Family is not so much about the Family of Nazareth not even about our own families but about the foundation on which our lives and the lives of our families are built. If our families like the one at Nazareth are built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ, then everything else will fall into place. To build on Christ means first of all to regard him as the centre of life itself. It means to realize that he too has gone through all the difficulties and turmoil that we go through in our lives and so can understand and identify with us. It means that like him we must continue to believe that no matter what happens in our lives and no matter how heavy the cross we may be called to bear, we have merely to do what is required of us and leave the rest to God. To build on Christ means to continue to trust that all that happens does so because it has been ordained by God and that he is always in control. It means to dare to believe that God will never do anything that he knows is not for our good even if we are not able to understand it fully at the time when it does happen.

Once we do this and let our lives be guided by Christ then it will be possible for children to respect their parents and not despise them even if they are lacking in understanding and have not been able to keep in touch with the changing times and for parents not to antagonize their children, or have unrealistic expectations from them, not to compare them with the neighbour’s children or even with each other in families in which there is more than one child and be as Khalil Gibran advises in his book The Prophet “the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”.

Then it will possible for husbands and wives to love each other unconditionally and be true to the commitment they made on their marriage day, to be open to and flexible with each other and make changes that may be required because of love.

Then it will possible for every member of the family to be kind and humble, to be gentle and patient. Each will then be able to forgive because of the example of forgiveness that Christ gives and because of his/her own experience of forgiveness manifested in his unconditional love and mercy.

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