Readings: 1 Sm. 1:20-21, 24-28; 1 Jn. 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52
Home is Where the Heart Is
1. When people get married, they always think of a place they can call home, a place to come back to after a day's job, and where they would raise a family. A home should be a mini-church, a mini-school, and a mini-social center. Children learn to be good, loving, graceful, forgiving, gentle, humble, and spiritual from their parents. At home, they learn to pray. They learn table manners from home. What they learn from school should complement what they learned from home. Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Mary seemed to have been a homemaker while Joseph was a carpenter – the breadwinner and Jesus was a child who learned from his parents. At least, so it seems! Was their home anxiety-free? Were they worried about anything or any member of the family?
2. In the Collect today, we asked God to give us the shining example of the Holy Family so that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity and so, in the joy of his house delight one day in eternal rewards. We want to model our family after that of the Holy Family. The first reading narrates the religious practice of Elkanah's family. It was customary for them to go and present themselves to the Lord in the temple in Shiloh to fulfill their vows. They would offer sacrifices and prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received. Samuel was an answer to Hannah's prayer. She had asked the Lord for him and promised to offer the child to God, should God answer her prayers. Now Hannah went to make good her pledge. Since God was at the center of her life, she dedicated Samuel to God.
3. In the gospel, we meet Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, who, as a typical Jewish family, also made the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. It was, no doubt, a joyful celebration where families traveled in groups and enjoyed the company of one another. Things sometimes get in the way in such gatherings, and the important things often get ignored or forgotten. In this journey, we see a typical family dynamic playing out in the Holy Family. The boy Jesus was forgotten and inadvertently left behind in the temple. One can only imagine the anxiety and panic that Mary and Joseph experienced during those agonizing hours that they could not account for Jesus' whereabout. They took him for granted and let their guards down. They thought Jesus would be taken care of by family members. They took some time out to be Mary and Joseph and not parents of a young boy of 12. Most families often find themselves in a similar situation. They take things for granted and often feel that the kids will be just fine in the care of others.
4. Isn't it true that we often take things for granted ourselves and get busy with our jobs and think of providing material things for our children that we often forget who is taking care of them? When children grow up without close supervision from parents and caring adults; they grow into their own personalities and take up the guardian's attitude. Truth be told, once you become parents, you live, not for yourselves but the children. Hence the Church teaches the importance of responsible parenthood. Christian homes must be enabling environments for children to grow into responsible adults. If this is not the case, it may be too late to salvage the situation when they discover that the children are not with them.
5. The beauty of the Holy Family and what makes it holy is that after paying the price for taking things for granted, they went back to the source, where it all began – the temple. It was in the temple that they discovered Jesus. While they took things for granted, God was hard at work, protecting his own. God had taken charge of the situation for Mary and Joseph. In referring to giving time to one another in the family, we must admit that the demands of time and situation are different today. The Holy Family of Nazareth was very much like any human family of their time. They also experienced the struggles of life – being refugees; working hard to make ends meet; having to meet the demands of the law and all the other tensions that an ordinary family had to face. Despite all that, they were happy together. They went through their struggles together. But most of all, they always had time for God. God was in the center of their lives. To turn our families into holy families, we must allow the bond that binds us together to grow stronger and our love for every family member unconditional. We must bear with one another in love and forgive each other as soon as misunderstanding comes in between family members. We must never take any member of the family for granted. Most of all, we must always go back to Jerusalem to find the missing link of our relationship; there we will find Christ. He will teach us that the family that prays together stays together. May the Holy Family intercede for us this day and into the new year. Amen. Happy Holy Family! Happy new year to one and all.
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.