Thought of the day
Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - Feast - Year B
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"The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him"

Saint John Chrysostom (c.345-407), priest at Antioch then Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church 
Homily for Christmas ; PG 56, 392 (trans. ©Friends of Henry Ashworth, 1981)
"The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him"

What more shall I say of this mystery? I see a carpenter and a manger, infant and swaddling clothes, a virgin giving birth without the necessaries of life; nothing but poverty and complete destitution. Have you ever seen wealth in such great penury? How could he who was rich have become poor for our sake (2Cor 8,9), so poor that he had neither bed nor bedding but was laid in a manger? O immeasurable wealth concealed in poverty! He lies in a manger yet he rocks the whole world. He is bound with swaddling bands, yet he breaks the bonds of sin. Before he could speak he taught the wise men and converted them. What else can I say? 

Here is the newborn babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. With him are Mary, virgin and mother, and Joseph who was called his father. Joseph was only betrothed to Mary when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her; so he was at a loss as to what he should call the child. While he was in this perplexity a message from heaven came to him by the voice of an angel. “Do not be afraid, Joseph. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child” (Mt 1,20)… Why was Christ born of a virgin, and her virginity preserved inviolate?! Because of old the devil had deceived the virgin Eve, Gabriel brought the Good News to the Virgin Mary. Having fallen into the trap, Eve spoke the word that led to death. Having received the Good News, Mary gave birth to the incarnate Word who has brought us eternal life.

The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the "domestic church" or the "church in miniature." St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a "family church," and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include: reading scripture regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the actions of the Holy Family, going to confession frequently, and so forth, all done together as a family unit.
In addition to cultivating positive actions, the Church understands that various actions and behaviors are contrary to God's Divine plan for the family. These include abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, among other things. Catholic Teaching is that a marriage must be open to children. Anything artificial that prevents this is contrary to divine law, although spacing births for a just reason is permitted (and may be accomplished through "natural family planning").
Also, poverty, lack of health care, rights violations, government intrusion in the life of communities and families, and other justice concerns must be addressed by faithful Christians because of the negative effect these conditions have on the family unit. St. Paul gives us some advice on family life in Colossians 3:12-21:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (RSV).
The Holy Family feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. We also may take this feast to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit, and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do? Finally, we can use this feast to ask ourselves what are we doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighborhoods, and communities.
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