Sunday, December 30, 2018

THE HOME IS A SCHOOL OF HOLINESS: A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Yeasr C (Luke 2:41-52)

You who are parents want more than anything to keep your children safe and happy.  I know that from my sister with my niece and from the twelve years I pent in a secondary school as well as what parents have told me. Our Lady and St Joseph had the same concern.  They too wanted to keep our Lord safe.  But this was the time of Passover and Jerusalem and its surrounding villages were full of pilgrims, upwards of a million people.  Imagine our Lady and Joseph’s reaction when they discovered they had mislaid not only their son but the Son of God?  How could they lose him some might ask?  Well anyone who has cared for children knows how quickly they can move when your back is turned.  In that society there was no such thing as the ‘nuclear family;’ families were more than Mum, Dad and the kids.  It was easier to assume a child was with cousins or other relatives. In addition Jesus had reached the age of the Jewish Bar-Mitzvah when he legally became a Jewish man obliged to keep the sacred Law of Israel. Technically he was an adult.

How do you find a boy among a million people, in those narrow and winding streets?  The name ‘Jesus’ or ‘Yehoshua’ was a common name so calling it out would not help much, like calling our ‘Pat,’ ‘Mike,’ or ‘Joe’ down on High Street.
Three day they searched for them.  Three days.  Here we have a prophecy of the three days He will spend in the tomb.  Our Lady will knew where He is then but when He was twelve she had to search.  Can you imagine the heartache and worry? The do not give up (what parents would ever give up?), they search and search and they finally find Him in the Temple, the heart of the Jewish faith and culture, the centre of their world.  Our Lord has become legally a a Jewish man and subject to the full weight of the Law so He is there debating the Law with the experts and those very experts are amazed at His answers and His questions.

They are immediately both relieved and exasperated! They are filled with joy and they could throttle him!  Three days they have been searching! Interestingly it is His Mother who questions Him.  St Joseph never says a word in Scripture.  He is a man of silence. Perhaps that’s a message for husbands. Our Lord’s reaction is both that of someone young, and surprisingly beyond His years.  He does not grasp their concern but He already feels the call of His mission, His vocation.  
Our Lord refers to His “Father’s affairs.” The original is difficult to translate and so different bibles will give different translations. Some even have ‘house’ but ‘business’ or ‘concerns’ might be just as good as affairs.  He knows who He is and that He has something to do in life.  Notice that he indirectly corrects His Mother.  She has spoken of St Joseph as our Lord’s Father (which in Jewish law he was) but our Lord’s response has pointed to His true Father in Heaven.  It is the mission that His Father has given Him that He must complete.
But He goes back with them to Nazareth.  In this He shows His obedience and humility.  He continues to grow as any child grows but He does so in wisdom and favour as well.  He shows both normal growth into manhood and the flowering of His perfect human nature.  We are told that His mother kept all these things in her heart, that is, like any mother she treasured them and meditated on them, drawing from them their significance and meaning.  Your children are a word from God to you! Pay attention and discern what He is saying to you.

As I have said parents want their children to be safe and happy.  Ultimately lasting safety and happiness can only be found in Heaven.  What a tragedy to be safe and happy in this world and to lose eternal safety and happiness in the process.  The only thing worse than that is to be miserable in this world and to be miserable in the next!
Everything we think, do and say ought to ordered to ensuring our safety and happiness in Heaven with God.  We need to choose eternal life by our faith in Christ and our behaviour, by how we love those around us.  That’s the most important lesson that anyone can learn in childhood.  My parents had very little in life but they at least shared with me their Faith and their love.  They believed in Jesus Christ and in the Catholic Faith and they loved me and they loved others.   They were concerned for my salvation.
We seem to have lost that in our era.  Too many assume that Heaven is easy to get into or even that it’s automatic.  Our Lord made no such promise.  He has warned us to make every effort in order to save ourselves and our loved ones.  If we do that He will look after the rest.  Our priority should be becoming truly holy.
It’s no accident that our Lord chose to have a Mother and a foster-Father.  He wanted to show us how important family life is for this world and the next.  It also points to the importance of the roles that a Mother and Father play in the family.  You are the models what it is to be not just a good mother or father, nor what it is to be a good woman and a good man but what it means to truly love and respect another in Christ. You lay down the foundations of their future relationships and life not only in this life but the next. 
So parents you aren’t just there to provide protection and comfort.  You are the primary educators, formators, of your children. It’s your foremost task.  Your task to nurture your children not only to thrive in this life but even more so in the next.  Through you your children learn what is really important.  Teachers can provide background information and skills but parents are the primary educators of their children.  From you they learn the value and beauty of being human, male and female and the unique gifts of each, as well as the gifs of reason, freedom and conscience, and how to nurture and form them.  From you they learn the value of humility and obedience.
Your children are your work of art, your highest achievement.  It is God who has empowered you to do this.  He has brought them into existence through you and He gave them to you so that you could help Him get them into Heaven.  You are co-workers with God, co-creators with Him. That mission outweighs all others.  
All the other things that we must do in life should be ordered to that goal of getting to Heaven.  That is what concerns our Father in Heaven: that through His Son Jesus, and with the help of those around us, each and every one of us gets to the safety and happiness of Heaven.  We are, all of us, meant to be about our Father’s concerns.

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