Saturday 28 December 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013 - Christ in/is the centre of the Christian Family

To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 3:2-6,12-14; Col3:12-21;Mt 2:13-15,19-23

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 Gospel text for today omits 2:16-18 to focus on Joseph and his response to God’s word in dreams. The response of Joseph to the word of God is one of total obedience. However, by inserting what are termed as formula or fulfilment quotations into the narrative which speak about Jesus and not Joseph, Matthew’s real intention seems to be to reveal who Jesus is.

While there is surely a connection between the first and second readings and the feast of the Holy Family because of the exhortations to different members of a family, we may wonder why the text from Matthew was chosen and what it has to do with today’s feast. However, when we realize that even though at first glance Joseph seems to be at the centre of the narrative, a little deeper reading brings out what Matthew seems to intend. His intention seems to focus and centre on Jesus first through his quotation from Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt have I called my son”, which in its original context was applied to Israel, but is here applied to Jesus, and second through his fourth formula quotation “He shall be called a Nazarene” not found in the Old Testament, but through which he may have intended to refer to the Messianic king promised in Isaiah 11, 1 which Isaiah refers to as a “branch” which in Hebrew is nêzer. This intention of Matthew seems to be the reason for the choice of the text and the point which the church wants to make through the celebration of this feast namely: Every Christian family can only be so in truth if it has Christ as its centre.

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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