Today’s first reading summarizes the relationship of father, mother and children. Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the two-fold reward which the Bible promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” perhaps not a fortune as big as Bill Gates’, but a sufficiency for ones needs and even for some of the luxuries of this life. Secondly, he states, “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Those are two things we all wish for. No one wants to be burdened with debt, overcome by poverty and misery. And I have yet to meet someone who wants to die young. We all desire prosperity and a long life. The way to achieve them, says Sirach, is by honoring ones father and mother.
God has planted in us the desire to honor father and mother. Every culture evidences the instinct to reverence ancestors, especially ones own parents. It has not disappeared in the twenty-first century. The most popular story of our time takes the urge as its underlying theme. Almost all of our children have read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies about his adventures. For sure, they attract children because they describe an enchanted world where a boy gets back at those who bully him. But on a more fundamental level, the stories receive their dynamism from Harry Potter’s search for his father. He believes that his father is good – and desires to honor him.
God put the desire in our hearts for a reason. It is not too strange when you think about it. That instinct helps create an enduring family - and family is the place where God intends us to learn love. Love means embracing those who are different.
We chose our friends, but we find ourselves in a family. Friends come together because of similar interests. What member of a family have in common are each other. Older sister and little brother are practically two distinct species. Like a pony and a kitten, they wouldn't naturally associate with each other. Similarly an elderly father and his grown son occupy very different worlds. It is family which brings the mix together. Love that makes the mix work. The family exists so that different beings might learn love. G.K. Chesterton expressed it this way:
The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind. Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is foolish, like the world; he is old, like the world.
The most wildly diverse family is the one we celebrate this Sunday. The gap between Jesus and his Mother is greater than the distance between an archangel and a worm. He is God, she is a creature. Likewise, the difference between Mary and her husband is greater than that between any two other human beings. She is sinless, conceived without original sin. Joseph, though certainly among the best of men, was like you and me, a sinner.
Compared to the Holy Family, the diversity within our own families is small. But God wants to weld that diversity into a unity. It requires sacrifice – which is another word for love. I know that it is not easy. When you feel down, discouraged, I ask you to say to yourself, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph.” The devil will flee – and you will again be able to face the great challenge: to love, to become family.
From the archives (Holy Family Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Complete list of Holy Family Sunday Homilies:
Praying at West Seattle Planned Parenthood
Bulletin (Purpose of Incarnation, Chesterton on family, World's Tiniest Baby, New Year's Celebrations)
Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II
Amy on Media Coverage of Peterson Murders
Did Steubenville Elect Bush?
In World Day of Peace Message Pope Notes the Newly Conceived Child Deserves Rights
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru