Homily for December 28

The Holy Family by Daniel Bonnel

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

It’s still the Christmas season on the church calendar
and your tree and decorations are probably still up at home,
but the business and the busy-ness
of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
are fading quickly.

Time then, perhaps, to ask a few questions on this Holy Family Sunday.
 “Does Christmas bring out the best
in your family – or the worst?
Does it bring out the best or the worst in you and me?”

Maybe it’s the light of that star over Bethlehem
that discloses both the best and the worst in our holiday households,
and in ourselves.

Christmas certainly draws families together
with folks traveling home, to and from distant places,
but Christmas can also highlight the problems in our families:
the estrangements, the grudges, the unsettled arguments
the old hurts that keep us from truly being together, in one heart.

Of course,
Christmas also has a way of opening our hearts and our wallets
to the poor, the needy, the homeless and the hungry;
but it also highlights the great cultural divide
that keeps the poor poor, and the rest of us, not poor
– for the balance of the year.

Christmas light shines brightly on the world’s divisions, too -
especially on the scourge of war.
What does it mean to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace
while war is waged in so many places and more often than not,
on the doorsteps of the very poorest in our global family?

And how will we welcome the Prince of Peace in our homes
if we refuse to forgive and reconcile and welcome our own?

On this feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
what might we pray for our own families - and for ourselves?

As saturated with ancient cultural norms
as today’s first scripture was,
its categories offer a plan for family order good for every age:                                      
honor, authority, respect, prayer, reverence,
obedience, care, kindness and simple consideration of others.
Are these the foundation on which we build our families?
Are these the virtues each of us tries to live
in order to contribute to family unity and harmony?

St. Paul offers a similar kind of “household order,”
calling us to “put on,” that is to clothe ourselves in
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience,
forgiveness of those who offend us, gratitude
and, above all, a willingness to let Christ rule our hearts.

The qualities Sirach and Paul urge on us might be just the ones
found lacking in our own households, and in our selves.
These aren’t the categories by which our culture judges success
and to many they may sound dated and out of fashion.

How often and how easily do just these values fall victim to
busy calendars, to self-interest, to electronic communication,
to the demands of work and school and social commitments?

What values, what interests, whose interests,
fill the family calendar? manage the family budget?
schedule the family’s time together?
spark the family’s conversation?  bond the family’s intimacy?

How is my family’s life, how is my life
marked by honor, authority, respect, prayer, reverence, obedience,
care, kindness, consideration of others, justice,
heartfelt compassion, humility, gentleness, patience,
forgiveness of those who offend us, gratitude
- and a willingness to let Christ rule our hearts...

Each of us might well ask
if those virtues find a home in our own hearts
because if they don’t find a home in our individual hearts,
how can we expect them to find a home in our families?
and in all our other relationships at work, at school,
in our parish, in the neighborhood, in the community?

As I speak about those virtues I know that a couple of them
stick in my mind and heart as  ones I need to look at, to work on.

Do some of them stay with you, too?
Might there be some good material here for us
as we consider making New Year’s resolutions?

The Eucharist we are about to celebrate
is given to nourish, to grow these virtues in our minds and hearts.

Pray with me that the Supper we share here,
at the table of our family in faith,
will feed us for living as the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:
in peace with God and with one another,
and inviting Christ to rule our hearts.


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