Friday, January 7, 2011

How to have a happy and holy family, Sermon for the feast of the Holy Family

 Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
December 26th, 2010
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.

Today, the feast of the Holy Family, we are afforded the opportunity to consider the great dignity of married life. The vocation to marriage is indeed a high calling, both a challenge and an immense supernatural blessing. As we think of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we are both encouraged to strive forward in our own vocations and we are strengthened by their example to persevere in the face of every difficulty.
As we consider the home in Nazareth, there are two central realities which come to light: first, this home was a place of prayer; and second, the Holy Family worked hard. Prayer and work intertwined to create a marvelous harmony in the life of the Holy Family.

First, we consider the Holy Family as an example of prayer. The home in Nazareth has a spirit of quite about it – I do not say that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were perpetually silent, not by any means! Certainly, there was much joy and even laughter in that house; for the happiest people are holy people, and so the three holiest people will certainly be the most joyful Family of all. Yet, there is something of a spirit of quite which is associated with the home in Nazareth – it is the silence of prayer.
Note well how this prayerful silence differs from the sad and angry silence which is present in so many families today. Today, there is silence in the home because the husband and wife are angry with one another, or the parents and children are at odds. The silence in many families today comes from sin.
But this was not the silence of the Holy Family, it was a silence filled with love, filled with prayer.

We know that the Holy Family prayed together regularly, as all families must. Indeed, the family is the first school of prayer. But this meant more than just common prayers said together each day, for the Holy Family this also meant times for personal silent prayer as well. In addition to their common prayers, Mary and Joseph (and Jesus as he grew older) took time each day for personal mental prayer and meditation.
We can imagine how Joseph would take care of the Christ Child, so that Mary would have an opportunity to make a meditation – perhaps for an hour. Then, Mary would in turn allow Joseph to take his time for daily mental prayer as well.
And this is something which every family must do – husbands and wives must give each other the opportunity for daily mental prayer, this daily period of meditation is essential for any Christian family.
Moreover, in addition to teaching their children the common prayers that are said together, parents ought to instruct their sons and daughters on how to make a meditation. By the time a child is in high school, he should have learnt from his parents how to pray with Scripture, alone and in quite.

But it was not all prayer in that holy house of Nazareth – there was much hard work too! The Holy Family offers us an example of consecrated labor. Joseph was dedicated to his profession as a carpenter, and he worked hard to complete his work with perfection. But he didn’t put his job ahead of his Family either. When the angel came and told him to flee to Egypt, Joseph willingly abandoned his work, sacrificing his business, for the sake of his wife and her Child. Joseph knew the true value of labor and he was a good worker, but he also knew that his vocation as a husband and father came first.
And after Joseph worked hard all day in the shop, what did he do? Did he go out to the bar with “the guys”? Did he seek relaxation in the secular distractions of the world? Of course not! After a long day of work, Joseph returned home to his Family. He went to Mary and to Jesus, he fulfilled his primary vocation as father of the household.
Now I do not say that it is wrong for a man to go out with friends every so often, but we ought to ask ourselves where we find our true consolation and rest. Do we seek consolation and joy in the world, or in our family? Do we get rest and relaxation by fleeing our responsibilities, or is our true rest found with our family? Let us heed the example of St. Joseph, the worker and the spouse.

And what of Mary? She too worked hard! She was dedicated to the care of her home – for her profession was to be the housewife in the Holy Family. Did she spend her day gossiping and chattering endlessly? Of course not! She was dedicated to her work, and she fulfilled her responsibilities as the Mother of Jesus.
Consider where Mary found her consolation, joy and refreshment. It wasn’t in going off shopping all the time. She didn’t always need the newest fashionable clothing. She was constantly looking for ways to spend Joseph’s money. Rather, she found her consolation in her husband and her Son. Mary’s rest and joy was to be with her Family.
Likewise, Jesus, as he grow older and became a young adult, was not always off with friends running around Nazareth. No! He knew his duties to his Family. He loved Joseph and Mary very much, and so he spent time with them and they were his true joy.

Now I know that this can all be pretty challenging. I know that the Christian ideal of married life is exalted indeed. But we need not be discouraged, we must never despair.
If you find that family life is difficult, if you find it hard and full of sorrow; the Holy Family is with you.
Remember, that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (as holy as they were) suffered many hardships and difficulties. No one can claim to have had a more difficult family life than the Holy Family – even looking past all the challenges which arose from the miraculous nature of Christ’s conception (challenges which nearly led Joseph to divorce the Blessed Virgin), from the moment that Christ was born the Holy Family suffered persecution and difficulties. When Jesus was just a baby, King Herod sought to kill him and they all had to flee to Egypt.
Recall as well that Joseph died when Jesus was not yet thirty years old – what sorrow this must have caused Jesus and Mary! Moreover, Jesus himself was murdered in the prime of his life, leaving Mary in grave sorrow and affliction.
Indeed, this is a Family well acquainted with grief. And so, if your family suffers, if your family struggles – the Holy Family is closest to you today! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are your companions; turn to them, speak with them, ask them for assistance and aid. Consecrate your family to the Holy Family, and they will bring you safely through the storms of this life unto life everlasting.