Monday, December 12, 2016

Homily Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Sir 3:2-6, 12-14;
·         Psalm 128:1-5;
·         Col 3:12-21
·         Matt 2:13-15, 19-23

 Family: a Domestic Sanctuary
It is not surprising that following the celebration of Christmas, the Birth of Christ, we re-gather today to contemplate and celebrate the virtues of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. In fact, this Feast makes a lot sense for us since we are all fruits of our beautiful families: a community of parents and children, brothers, sisters and relatives. In today’s feast, we celebrate the responsibility we owe one other.
 The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was a family of “Yes!” and openness to God. Mary, in Luke’s Gospel says, “Be it done to me according to your Word,” (Luke 1:38).  The righteous Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel quietly took Mary home as the Angel Gabriel had told him (Matt 1:24). The righteous Joseph provided for the safety of baby Jesus in Egypt. Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph were humble. They paid close attention to the whispering of the Holy Spirit in their ears.

Besides humility and righteousness, it was a family that handled their difficulties and confusion with prayer, and absolute trust in God. A typical example is the Christmas mystery of the sudden pregnancy of Mary by the divine agent. Pregnancy, I believe would be a very delicate period for women. It is a time that women enter upon a cycle of hopes of fears. She sees herself different in the mirror and is conscious of the risks and sufferings awaiting her. In such circumstances our husbands would not want to approach their wives as if they are in the military grounds, but like Joseph with gentleness and virtues of love, and joy (cf. Udoekpo, M. Family Functions, 1997, p. 19).
Joseph handled this well. He listened and was opened to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.  He took Mary home (Matt 1:24). He loved, honored and respected Mary, and the child Jesus as well. Joseph a quiet and righteous man knew what his role was as a father. Though quiet, he had a lot to thoughtfully say by his family life style.

 He knew that every child needs a father and a mother (cf. 1989 Redemptoris Custos of Pope John Paul II). Joseph did not walk away from his fatherly responsibility as some modern fathers would do today. He knew he was called to love and protect the child Jesus, the New Moses (Matt 2:13-15, 19-23), just as the old Moses was kept save in the Book of Exodus 1–4. He rose up and fled with the child Jesus to Egypt for safety as directed by the Angel of the Lord (Mtt 2:13).
Joseph, besides loving and respecting Mary must have also taught Jesus good carpentry trades and skills. From Mary and Joseph Jesus must have also learn their basic customs, how to say shalom, “good morning daddy,’ “good morning Mom,” and   how to say some basic Jewish prayers, and meaning of things around him – patience, and compassion for fellow human beings-that would come to reflect in Jesus public ministry; in his turning water into wine at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2), in his multiplication of fish and bread, in his healing and forgiving ministries.

Joseph knew his job and his responsibility to Mary and Jesus. Jesus also knew his job. He was an obedient child. I am sure you would recall the incidence in Luke 2:41-51 when the boy Jesus stayed back in the Jerusalem after he had made and annual visit with his parents Mary and Joseph. It took Mary and Joseph about three days to anxiously and lovingly retrace Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem where he was deeply involved in a discussion with teachers and scholars. We are told Mary and Joseph were not only anxious about their child, but were astonished at finding Jesus in the midst of temple teachers. But scriptures tells us that after all said and done, Jesus went back home with his parents and “was obedient to them,” (Luke 2:51). Jesus grew up in wisdom, age and favor before God and man (Lk 2:52). He obeyed his parents.

Echoes of such obedience are heard in the alternate first reading of today (Sir 3:2-6, 12, and 14), that whoever honors his parents atones for sins and preserves himself/herself from them. When he prays he is heard, and whoever respects the mum stores up wealth and riches for him/herself and will live long (cf. Exodus 20:12; and Deut 5:16).
You and I know, especially our parents that we live in a different time today. Today, there are many fathers and mothers who walk away from their mutual responsibility to their children, leaving them third parties under the name of personal freedom or “too busy at work." Divorce has also become the order of the day to the detriment of our children. Today’s society is also searching for where to draw the line between the rights of parents and those our children: the movie they watch, the drinks the take, the conversation they engage and the examples they are shown. Are they adult food, drinks, movies? What examples do we show to our kids? How we treat each other, how we return home from work and on time, join the family at meals and how we relate and respect our next door neighbors? What about our faith and sexuality: how do we live or express them both at homes in the public- knowing that our kids, the future leaders, are watching us!

 I grew up as a sixth child in a family of 4 surviving brothers and two sisters from same mom and dad. Customarily we respect our parents. We honor them. We show gratitude to them for many reasons- for raising us, for breast-feeding us, for the food, clothing, for the tuition, for teaching us the faith, name them.  We never talked back to our parents.  The respect is so deep and mutual that we cannot call our parents even our elderly ones by their first name. Usually whenever there is any misunderstanding in our family everybody is eager to work hard to have the matter resolved with compassion and love.
 This is the Family Life in the Lord that St. Paul addresses in the 2nd reading (Col 3:12-21). The family is a place where each of us would learn to put on compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Like the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ it is place where we learn to pray, to sing Psalms, cultivate wisdom, respect, honor one another and lay our spiritual foundation.  It is a place where we learn to visit our parents and seniors in the nursing homes, hospices and hospital. It is a place where we learn to be our brother's and sisters' keepers. It is a domestic sanctuary for faith, hope and love.  It is a domestic church, school of virtues, where we lay the foundation for the values and virtues we bring to our larger Community, churches, schools, places of work and governance.

 As we approach the table of the Holy Eucharist today, let us pray that each and every one of us may see our homes as domestic sanctuaries. More so, we may return home today, nourished by the virtues and exemplary family life of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Refection Questions:

1.     Do you see your family as a domestic church?

2.     What particular virtue can you relate to in the family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus?

3.     What do you hope and faithfully look for in today’s families?