Dec. 30, 2018

THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH, SUNDAY, DEC. 30, 2018

EXPERIENCING THE CHALLENGES OF FAMILY LIFE

READINGS: 1st- 1 Sam. 1:20-22, 24-28; 2nd- Col. 3:12-21; Gospel- Lk. 2:41-52

Every family experiences its challenges. 

Looking at the Holy Family, one would think it should be completely free from worries in the human sense. But that’s not correct. In fact, the challenges of the Holy Family start right after the birth of Jesus as Simeon foretells at his presentation. King Herod tries to eliminate him forcing Joseph to flee to Egypt. They’re forced to become strangers in Egypt. In today’s gospel, Luke narrates how the Holy Family travels to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The boy Jesus gets lost. Being in his puberty, Jesus begins to explore not just his physical environment but his spiritual connection with his heavenly Father. He stays back in the temple without parental consent. The parents begin their journey back home only to discover that their son isn’t in the departing team. They are anxious, search for him everywhere, then return to Jerusalem. On finding him after three days, Mary expresses her feelings to Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus responds with what appears to be a goofy answer, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This sets the stage for unveiling his mission as the Son of God.

The first reading presents different challenges regarding family life in the Old Testament. Elkanah has two wives, Hannah and Peninah with both wives entangled in constant conflict. Peninah has children while Hannah has none. Peninah would mock Hannah and would take advantage of her barrenness before the husband. Hannah worries mostly about having her own child. Hannah resorts to praying and seeking help from God. In today’s reading, Hannah’s prayers are answered. She begets a boy child. Since she promised to dedicate this child to God in return, she takes the boy Samuel to the temple in thanksgiving to God.  Hannah demonstrates to us the power of patience, prayer, fidelity, and gratitude in family life. 

The lesson from the readings is to recognize that family life has its ordeals: challenges from the marriage relationship itself; challenges arising from infertility and barrenness; challenges from parenting responsibilities and upbringing of children; challenges from gender roles and responsibilities as husband and wife. Some challenges also arise from personality and character styles of individuals in the family. We need to realize that the presence of challenges doesn’t make the family bad, rather it depends on how they are handled and addressed. 

Even the Holy Family has its challenges and conflicting moments. Mary doesn’t feel good about the boy Jesus not following them back to Nazareth. She feels anxious that he is missing. She expresses her feelings this way, “Son, why have you done this to us?” (Lk. 2:48) Mary makes Jesus to understand their feelings and the anxiety caused them by his disappearance. She verbalizes her feelings in a compassionate way.

Saint Paul gives us appropriate ingredients for healthy functioning in family life by the invitation to embrace “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another as the Lord has forgiven you.” The Pauline challenge is this, “so must you also do” (Col. 3:13). We must also forgive. That’s the only way to achieve a happy family life. We must be compassionate and be willing to show kindness. We must be humble, gentle, and patient in our relationship with each other. We must be ready to bear with our family members in all that we do. We must be willing to forgive each other because such is a Christian obligation. That way, we sustain the bond of unity and of peace in Christ Jesus. Saint Paul includes everyone in the family code: spouses, parents, children. Everyone must shun bitterness in relating with another. No individual is perfect, hence, we all err. What matters is how we appreciate him/her as a gift to the family. 

Let us therefore emulate the Holy Family in making sacrifice for the other. Mary and Joseph sacrifice for Jesus; they go back to look for him. They show him compassion and love and not bitterness or resentment. Parents, should avoid bitterness in dealing with their children. Treat them with compassion. Understand the various neurological, hormonal, and developmental changes that take place in children as they grow. The more your children feel comfortable with you, the more they trust you, they open up to you and confide in you. Jesus opens up to Mary and Joseph, “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49-50). 

Again, let’s be patient with one another. Let’s be kind and gentle. Let’s make humility a way of relationship in the coming year. The word of God teaches us to be thankful to God in all its richness. Let’s make our families places of thanksgiving to God. May the joys of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fill our homes and inspire us to a fulfilled family life. Amen.