Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family - December 26, 2010

**To listen to this homily, click on the title**

First Reading: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Second Reading: Col 3:12-21
Gospel: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

Good morning. Merry Christmas. I'm glad you got the memo. The one about it being Sunday! I think maybe a few didn't get that memo.

This is obviously the day after Christmas and I don't know about you but it's a wonderful opportunity to finally catch our breath. After all the hectic goings on around the celebration of Christmas are over. All the preparations, particularly the moms and wives, the ladies who do all, or mostly...I'm speaking for myself frankly...who do most of the work preparing for Christmas. Take a deep, deep breath.

I'm always so amazed and in awe of the wisdom of the Church that placed this particular day, this celebration of the Holy Family, so close to Christmas. In this case this year it's the very day after Christmas. It gives us an opportunity, as we celebrate on this day, it gives us the opportunity to really refocus and to really remember what the celebration of the Incarnation and what the celebration of Christmas is supposed to really be about. They have given us the model of the Holy Family. The family of Jesus that was so tuned in, so committed to doing the will of God. They were so obedient and that, I believe, is what the Lord is calling us back to. To focus our lives and our hearts on being obedient to the will of God.

Pastorally speaking, as we minister to people during this time of the year, so many times we see sort of the worldly results of things going on. Problems in families. That's one of the things that really comes out during this time of the year - the problems that are in families of every kind.

So many times people get so uptight when it gets close to Christmas Day because they have family gatherings and there are splits and there are problems in the family. And we start wondering how are we going to keep so-and-so from coming to the party or how can we invite everybody without inviting that one because they're mad at this one and all of these wonderful things. Everybody gets all uptight with all of these conflicts going on and they just get exacerbated at this time. That's so unfortunate. That's not God's desire. That is not God's will to have that and it's so unfortunate when we see that happening. And that's why again, we bring this celebration and we focus again on God's true desire for love and peace and joy and all of the these that he brought to us when he became man.

Another situation that we see during this time of the year is, and many of you in this church today may have had this situation, and that is when we lose a loved one during the year. And we find that as we celebrate Christmas, all of the sudden it is the first time that we celebrate Christmas with that loved one gone. And that becomes a sort of an intensification of our mourning process. And so it becomes a situation. We had that in our own family. My wife's mother passed away at the end of August and so this was the first Christmas with an empty chair. Sometimes when there's a death it can even more deeply split a family, cause even more family. Thanks be to God, in our family what happened,it brought about some healing. It brought about the coming together of the family in some beautiful ways. So even though there was an empty chair, there were more chairs filled this year than in the past. And so, again, it is not God's desire that we have these kinds of problems in the family and so that was a beautiful thing to see in our own family, God's healing process in that time.

Another thing that happens during this time of the year that intensifies too is when there is some kind of a tragedy in a family. We have a family in this parish who just this past Monday lost their home to a fire. It burned to the ground. Thanks be to God one of the sons was up watching the lunar eclipse and had just gone back to bed and smelled smoke and was able to get the family up. They lost everything. Burned to the ground. You would think that they would have the worst Christmas ever. But what has happened to them is that there's a renewal of their participation in the family of God. They have seen this church, they have seen their high school community, they have seen the community, the family of God come together. The father and the family were here at 7:30 mass and the father said, "I've never seen anything like it. This is the best Christmas we've ever had." Not because of the things, but because of God's love as exemplified through the community of the family. There own family, the family of the church, the family of the bigger community. God's love is manifested through them. So rather than experiencing this horrible tragedy of the loss of love, they lost everything of their possessions, but what they have gained is a greater understanding of God's love.

Now as I prepared and looked at the readings, I tried to get to the core of the message for today. And what I really truly believe is that the message to take away from this church, to go forth in this coming year...what I saw in the readings today was a commitment to obedience. To obedience to God's will. Look at the story. We see that young maiden, that young woman, Mary. God came to her through the angel and she could have said no. But she said yes to God's will, to God's desire in her life. She said yes. She was obedient to the Lord. Joseph, her husband, stepped away for a moment when he found out the news but yet God spoke to him and Joseph then was obedient. Obedient to God's will in his life. For his family. For us. And he said yes. And he picked up in the middle of the night and he took his family at God's beckoning, he took the family to Egypt. And in that whole sort of telling of the story by Matthew, his audience was primarily Jewish, we can sense a return back to the exodus, to Moses. And Moses' obedience. The prophet spoke, "I called my son out of the desert" and for them it was the nation of Israel about whom he was speaking. In the Gospel story, it is His son Jesus called out of Egypt. The one who was to be obedient to the Father even unto death. And in the obedience of the mother, in the obedience of the earthly father, and in the obedience of the son God has come to us and brought to us, if we will accept it and if we will live it, he has brought to us peace and joy and compassion and forgiveness and love. He has brought that to us. If we are obedient to His call and His will.

I hope and I pray that you and I will go forth from this day and every day praying to be able to live God's will. Because it's His desire and His will that we in our so called nuclear families, that we in the family of the Church, and that we in the family of the world will live in peace and harmony and love. So may God bless us, may God lead us and carry us out of the desert and into His arms of love. May you go forth in this day committed to being obedient to His will.