Friday, December 30, 2011

Homily: Feast of the Holy Family- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily: Feast of the Holy Family (December 30th) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings Year B: Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3/Col 3:12-17; Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Ps 105:1-9 and Luke 2:22-40

Family: School of Faith, Hope, Obedience and Love

I know we are not surprise that soon after the celebration of Christmas and listening to the stories of the Birth of Christ, his origin, his naming ceremonies and circumcision, the role of the angels, the magi and the shepherd we are gathered again together as a church to contemplate the gifts of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The gifts of faith, hope, obedience, love and devotion of the parents of Jesus.
Like the faith of Abraham and Sarah in today’s first readings (Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Heb 11:8,11-12,17-19) Mary and Joseph were faithful parents beginning from the time of the mysterious conception of Christ to the events of providing safety for Christ in Egypt (Matt 2:13-15, 19-23) to  the presentation  in the Temple,  narrated in today’s Gospel of Luke 2:22-40. Naturally after the Shepherd who work with animals had gone back to their farms and caves and those who were seeking to kill the child Jesus had died   Joseph and Mary would have returned to Nazareth to face the challenges and endurance of raising their son Jesus.

Joseph properly went about his carpentry work and having to deal with customers while Mary probably was busy with household works and changing of diapers. They were very devout parents doing what exemplary family of their time would do., teaching their kids, Psalms and prayers. We are told in  the Gospel when the time came Mary and Joseph  carried out the Jewish customs and rituals of offering back their male child to the service of the Lord, remembering the sparing of their Hebrew male children in Egypt (Exod 13:1-2, 11-16 Num 18:15-16) and the purification of the mother (Lev 12:1ff).

In the Temple they met two Jewish prophets Simeon and Anna who all recognized to amazement of Mary and Joseph the importance of Jesus for both Israel and the Gentile. Mary and Joseph handle with faith the  Nunc Demittis of Simeon ((Lk 2:29-32), especially the facts that Jesus will be a sign of contradiction and the cause for the fall and the rising of many in Israel and a Light for the Gentile, a prayer of hope come to fulfillment, long foretold by Israel’s prophets especially Isaiah 40:5; 42:6. 

 Although the Jews had waited for the Messiah for thousands of years, Gentiles were not included their plan of salvation. Mary and Joseph must also have handle with faith and hope especially the portion when Simeon predicted that “a sword pierce Mary’s heart.”

Even think of the sword of poverty. Mary and Joseph had no place in the Inn. Earlier they had to sleep in a cave in Bethlehem where Christ was delivered next to where animals were sheltered, and his first important visitors with the poor animal keepers, the shepherd.  From this narrative during the purification ritual Mary and Joseph were so poor that they could not afford a lamb or a sheep except two turtle doves (Lk 2:24).

 Isn’t it interesting that the mother of the Lamb of God could not afford a lamb for ritual cleaning. Nothing good was even expected from Nazareth (Jn 1:46). She even acknowledge her lowliness and poverty with joy in the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). Mary and Joseph had nothing but they had Christ, hope, faith and love to share with humanity. Think of the swords of opposition to Christ, false accusations against him, his suffering and death which Mary would live to witness.

In our family lives the challenges of a husband that returns home late from work or that of a nagging wife or partner. Even that of poverty too, there are certain things that our children would see in their neighbors’ children that daddy and mummy could not afford. Some of our kids are smart but not all would afford the high cost of putting them through college. What about the challenges of not listening to one another, the spiritual and moral poverty.

 We are told after the presentation Mary, Joseph return home where the child Jesus obediently grew up, became strong and was filled with wisdom and God’s grace. Wisdom because he was not only filled with God’s grace but he was dispose to learn from his parents the meanings of values, virtues and things around him. We are morally poor of respect when we do not respect our parents, visit them in nursing homes, hospices and hospitals or bring them to church when they are in need, but cannot drive because of ill health and poor visions.

We are spiritually and morally poor if we allow our kids to watch movies forbidden to the kids or fail to teach the basic values of the love of God and neighbors. Nazareth’s home was among other things, a spiritual home for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. And so should be our families.

We want to base our daily lives on love, trust, esteem and respect. We want to make room for exchange of ideas, values, experiences of joys and sorrows/swords, successes and trials.

As we reflect on the significance of the Holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, for  our respective families, let us keep in mind the following words of St. Paul.
 He says,

 “brothers and sisters; put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another… and let the peace of Christ control your hearts… and be thankful.. teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God…wives be subordinate to your husbands…husbands loves  your wives…. children obey your children…”(Col 3:12-21).