New Year New Beginning Week 1: Family

(Homily for Holy Family Sunday, Year C)

Message: Family involves anxiety and burden but we have a brilliant future.

This year Holy Family Sunday comes on the heels of Christmas. I would like to continue our Christmas theme. I am sure you remember it. :) Just in case here is the key verse: "To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God."

God want to give us power. God wants us to make a new beginning. It's easier than you think. If you accept Jesus, he will give you strength you never imagined. He will enable you to become a son or daughter of God. In the coming weeks we will explore that power.

Today we see a first dimension - that God creates us for family. That's why he makes us so diverse: male, female; young, old; clever, slow; healthy, weak. We need each other and that need drives us to form families. But, as we shall see, family comes not only from need, but something deeper. We find fulfillment in family.

Today, family faces a huge threat: false individualism - the feeling I can make it on my own. A certain self-reliance is good, but if a person carries it too far the results are disastrous. Young people sometimes rebel and cut themselves off. But we older people can also assert a false independence. "I don't want to be a burden to my children," we say.

To illustrate false individualism let me use my own example. I can start thinking, "Well, we have priests pension and social security. I can make it on my own." For sure, those things are good and I am grateful for them. But how much better to think this way: I am father of my parish family. I will do all I can to stay healthy to serve you. Yet if I become weak and confused - I mean more confused than I am now - you would take care of me. Some of you have told me that.

There's two reasons why no one should say, "I don't want to be a burden." First, it isn't a matter of choice. No one wants to be a burden, but we are and we may be a lot bigger burden in the future. The person who thinks he can escape being a burden by something like doctor-assisted suicide is putting one of the worst weights on his loved ones.

Second - and this is the main point - family is about bearing burdens: the burden of an unplanned pregnancy (at least unplanned for you - God plans every pregnancy), the burden of a special needs child. Or an older one who goes off the rails. And for those who arrive at "second childhood" the burden again of total dependence.

Family means to bear one another's burdens. We see that in the Holy Family. You know, Mary and Joseph had a special child. We get a glimpse today as we hear that mysterious episode about Jesus disappearing for three days - and then finding him in the Temple. "Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."

Great anxiety. Does not every family experience times of terrible anguish? Some are experiencing it right now. We need to pray for each other - and turn to the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help us.

Anguish and burden come with family - nuclear families, extended family and parish family. I know some of you feel tempted to pull away. I can only say this: if you accept the burden of family, you will experience true freedom - and the joy only God can give.

This brings us back to our Christmas verse: To those who accept Jesus, he gives power to become children of God. Jesus lives in his "Father's house." He wants to take us there. And, you know, there's no better place. Outside it is cold, dark and miserable. In the Father's house we have light, warmth and nourishment. We'll see more in coming days.

On Thursday evening we begin the New Year. I invite you to come to God's house: to receive the New Year united in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Through him we come to the Father's House - our true home, the family that will not break apart, the family that will endure. For sure, family now involves anxiety and burden, but we have a brilliant future.

Just as Holy Family Sunday comes on the heels of Christmas, so Epiphany - the Feast of the Three Kings - will come on the heels of New Year's. That is our theme: a new year, a new beginning. By accepting Jesus you and I become children of God. As St. John tells us, "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we might be called children of God. And so we are." Amen.


From Archives (Holy Family Sunday, Year C):

2012: Obedience and Freedom
2009: With Great Anxiety
2003: The Key to Family
2000: More Important Than Family

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