Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Family – 2019

On Sunday October 18, 2015, Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Square during the Synod on the Family which included the Rite of Canonization of Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Thèrése of Lisieux. When the Holy Father officially proclaimed them saints, he was proclaim a great message to the whole world. Family is the most important of institution of holiness in the world and parents have a God given responsibility to keep their family holy. I could not help but think about my own parents, along with all parents, who are the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith in a spirit of service and discipleship. Over the years the church has canonized many popes, bishops, priests, along with women and men religious, but this was the first time that a married couple with children was canonized in the same ceremony. It was an emotional moment! Three canonized saints in one family. According the criterion of God, they might be the richest people and family on the whole planet. They had 9 children, the rest of them would be in heaven too. Out of the nine Children 5 of them were religious sisters and four of them died as children or babies. After the death of her four children, Zelie the mother said. ‘Four of my children are in heaven and I am very confident that the rest of them will get there for sure’. This was the words of a Mother who took her responsibility as a mother very seriously.

 

What makes a family holy? It is the presence of God, of course! And what makes a family unholy? Obviously the absence of God! Marriage is a sacrament of holiness! As the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the sacrament of priesthood and the sacrament of marriage.  Through the sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass.  Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish church through the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.  Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual respect.   There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after they have grown up and left home. Is Jesus there in your families?

From our own experience we know that holding a family together and keeping it holy is not as easy as we think. Even when we are confronted with so many difficulties, as couples, parents and children, grandparents our challenge as Christian families is to look up to the holy family and want to be like. Learn lessons from their example. The real solution to the crisis within the family is to imitate the Holy Family. In the Holy Family we have the perfect example of family life. The Holy Family of Nazareth encountered many of the same obstacles that we do daily: they had financial crisis, misunderstandings, pre- marital pregnancy, threat for their life , like that of terrorist attack and so many limitations imposed by weather and time, etc. Irrespective of all these problems how did they manage to keep the family Holy?

What makes a family holy? It is the presence of God, of course! And what makes a family unholy? Obviously the absence of God! If we build the foundation of your family on the person of Christ and the gospel values, not on sports and games, money, school activities, and the like, our family is going to be a holy family. In the gospel of Mathew chapter 7: 25-27 Jesus speaks about two foundations.  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

I have known this family for many years now. Their great grandfather migrated to this country from Italy. He and his wife were very devoted to their faith and family. When they came to the country, the 1st thing they did was getting a portrait of the 10 commandments and placed it in the living room. They said to themselves, going forth, this is going to be the foundation of our family in the new country. They taught their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to do the same.  The result is unbelievable. There is no divorce in the family, and all their family (children, grandchildren and great grandchildren) is very actively practicing their faith. And all of them are very happy.  That is what happens when we build the foundation of our family on God. In the book of Deuteronomy 11: 18-21 Moses reminds the people of God “therefore, take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them on your arm as a sign, and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Teach them to your children, speaking of them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up, and write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates, so that, as long as the heavens are above the earth, you and your children may live”. Let’s always remember that when God speaks He means it and He is the keeper of His promises! The 1st commandment is “I am the Lord your God and you shall not have strange gods before me’. Today as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, let’s renew our resolution as Christin families that going forth God is going to be the foundation and number one priority of our families!