Acting and Praying Together: Living the Spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth
Rdgs: (1st: Sirac 3, 2-6. 12-14: Ps 128, 1-5; 2nd: Col 3, 12-21: Gos: Lk 22, 22-40)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
On this first Sunday of Christmas season year B, the church invites us to celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Sociologically speaking, the family is described as the nucleus of the human society. It is the place where life and learning begins. Today’s celebration is meant to remind us of the specific and important role of the sacred institution of family in our lives. The church reminds us through today’s celebration that the sustenance and subsistence of our society and world at large, hinges on the continuous existence of the family. Therefore today, the church presents the Holy Family to us as the model for all families who fear and walk in the ways of God.
Today’s celebration underscores the fact that an ideal family is made up of basically a man and a woman, and if God wills, children (Ps.127). Any union other than this in the name of family is an aberration, “pseudomonic” (false), and against God who in the beginning made them male and female. He did not take the ribs of Adam to create another man for Adam to cohabit with. Instead, he took Adam’s ribs and out of it created a biologically and functionally different being, woman (Gen 1 and 2). This call therefore comes at the most appropriate time when the costly fabrics of this sacred institution are greatly threatened and been swiftly eroded by all sorts of unhealthy, demonic, ill-fated ideologies, philosophies, cultural, religious, and odd social practices. To say that the devil and his cohorts are making frantic effort to poison and destroy it completely, might be stating the obvious in a most simple and mild way. In spite of this, there is still hope for this sacred institution.
I have lived in Puerto Rico for a couple of months now, and one of the things that I find very interesting about Puerto Ricans is their strong regard for their family and family values. In spite of the daunting influence of globalization and most importantly, the influence of their affiliating state, they still value their family union and identity so much. Families here are united in prayer, act together, and in fact, carry every member along in virtually all their activities, both social and religious. Those who live abroad are occasionally, drawn back home by the “Family Spirit and Love” with and in which they were brought up. Parents still take care, and pray earnestly for the well being of their children, while children still value and take care of their aged parents. The idea of “sending and abandoning” their aged parents in old people’s home is unconceivable here. This is a great sign of hope for the sacred institution of family. The call today is for us to rise up and emulate the model of ideal family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in other to fashion ours, or repair our broken families.
The first reading of this Sunday explicitly outlines the three different components of a family, the Father, “the first arm”; the mother, “the second arm”; and children, “the third arm” of the family. Each is important and unique in their positions. It equally outlines the position of each member in relation to one another: “God sets the father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” Most importantly, in this reading is the fact that the roles of children towards their parents are greatly stressed. This role centers on honor, obedience and humility towards ones parents. This is a serious lesson for all children who wish to live long and be blessed. There is a reward for obeying and making both our earthly or heavenly parents happy. Paul hits this nail right on its head when he reminds us of our duties in our families: “Children, it is your Christian duty to honor your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Respect your father and your mother is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it; so that it may go well with you” (Eph 6, 1-4). Jesus our model did perfectly well. In spite of being God, he never scorned his earthly and heavenly parents. Instead, he was humble and obedient (Phil 2, 6-11).
In today’s second reading, Paul reminds us of the very significant virtues that are very important to sustain our families. Each member of the family must strive to acquire them. Any family where these are found would definitely remain solid and united. These factors as Paul enumerates them include: heartfelt compassion on members of our families and not just the lip service type, kindness, humility, gentleness towards each member of the family, patience with one another in the family, bearing with and forgiving members of our families when they err against us. Most importantly, Paul says: “Put on love and let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” This is very important! Most families are not living in peace today because instead of wearing the garment of love they wear that of hatred and so affect others negatively. Any child brought up under this type of condition will definitely be a torn in the flesh of the society and our world. The reason we experience all forms of aberrations today in our family settings and consequently in our societies is because we have neglected these for too long. To sum up his counsel on the family, Paul succinctly reminds us individual roles in the family. “Fathers, love your wives and avoid bitterness towards them…Wives, respect your husbands…Children, obey your parents.” Jointly, “parents do not provoke your children.” These roles are crystal clear. The question now is who amongst us have failed in his/her role, and why are our families the way they are today? The candid answer is that most of us have failed in our duty and responsibility toward our families. So we must today emulate this wonderful family of Nazareth in order to rebuild them.
The Gospel on its part presents to us the Holy Family. In addition to the virtues that Paul enumerated above, there are two very important characteristics of this family presented to us today. These include, praying and acting together. In my few years a priest, one experience has kept me wondering how much importance we still attach to our families. For a good number of times I have seen mothers alone bringing their children for baptism and other very important sacraments in the church. Yet, one of the marriage question and consent goes thus: “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” Of course, to this, the answer by both the man and the woman is always: “Yes I will!” However, and sadly, many of us are too busy to grace the important occasions and ceremonies of members of our families talk less of coming together to pray. Yet every day we listen to the beautiful saying that, “a family that prays together stays together.” Together, Mary and Joseph took their son Jesus to the temple to be consecrated. They acted and prayed together for the good of their family. When Herod threatened their baby, they decided together in prayers to flee to Egypt. This is a very important virtue to emulate from them today as we celebrate them. This is most especially in our world where individualism had done a great harm to our family ties. Praying and acting together is the magic wand which sustains families. These help our families pull through difficult moments in life. This is true of the saying that “united we stand, divide we fall.” The family has suffered so much and is at the brink of collapse. The only way to heal it is by imitating and the Holy Family we celebrate today. Therefore, let us pray, Jesus, Mary and Joseph: Make our hearts like unto yours. Merry Christmas!
Peace be with You!