Family, you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.
Family is, I believe, besides the Eucharist, the most important thing in our world. It is families that show us the love of God or show us not the love of God.
We are celebrating this Feast of the Holy Family, where we are given this wonderful image of what it means to be a Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We are all called in our own families to have holy families. We are given these beautiful passages today that help us to realize what that means to be holy.
As I reflect on this, I would like you to think about your family and maybe allow this to be a little bit of an examination of conscience. Just to reflect on how you have been with your family. Have you been loving with them and patient with them?
In the First Reading we hear from Sirach this idea of taking care of a mother and a father. We know that in our age especially it has become more and more difficult, especially as we have parents that are living to be older. Sometimes parents are in nursing homes or homebound. I have become more aware of the pain of watching parents grow old.
The final phrase of the First Readings says, “My son, take care of your father when he is old, grieve him not as long as he shall live.” It reminds us that we are supposed to do everything we can to take care of our parents. Even as we watch them grow older, grow weaker, and perhaps even lose their minds that we care for them. “Be considerate of them and revile them not and be kind to your father.” Kindness to a father, and I would say, and to a mother will never be forgotten.
First, how Kind are we? How caring are we to our parents? It is interesting because the roles kind of change as you get older. You become in some ways a parent to your parents. You care for them.
We hear in the Second Reading, a wonderful recipe again for what it means to be a holy family. We hear in the letter from St. Paul to the Colossians, “Put on, as God’s holy ones, beloved and compassion.” It is interesting as he says, “Put it on.” I take it to mean that it is not always natural to us but something that we have to choose. It is something that we have to put on, this garment of heartfelt compassion.
Think of your family members. Have you been heartfelt and compassionate to them? Compassion means ‘to suffer with’. Are you willing to suffer with and for your family? It means to show affection, to show pity, to show mercy, to be kind and gentle with them. To treat them with heartfelt compassion and to love them from the heart.
The next phrase that he uses is kindness. Are we kind to our family?
I think a lot of times, especially with little kids, they fight with their brothers and sisters a lot. I tell the kids when they come to Confession, “Try to be kind to your brother and sister because you may not like them now, but I promise you when you grow old, you’re going to love them. They are going to be your best friends.” Don’t do too much damage. Be kind to your brothers and sisters. Hopefully when we grow older, we will become friends with one another. You become closer than we ever have, we appreciate each other once you have a little bit of distance. Maybe there is some difficulty time being kind to each other.
So, are you Kind to your brothers and sisters? Are you good to them? Do you act with love and benevolence? Are all your interactions with them upright, good, and truthful?
Is there Humility? Are we willing to be humble and not proud of our brothers and sisters? Without arrogance it means without being mean-spirited. Is there any mean-spiritedness in our hearts for our family members? If there is mean-spiritedness that we have, that is not of God and that is something that has to go. Our spirits need to be gentle and loving.
Then he says, “Act in all humility.” Humility means to be lowly, to place them before ourselves. It means to be courteous, to be mild and are we like that with our siblings, our family, our parents, our children? Are we humble with them or are we proud and arrogant thinking we always know what is right? Perhaps maybe, just maybe, we’re not always right.
Then, Gentleness. Are we gentle with each other? There is a wise priest in my life who I went to Confession with early on in the seminary and one of my favorite lines of his, after I would get all my sins out and most are self-accusing sins, he would say, “Be gentle with yourself. Don’t be so rough on yourself.” Be gentle with each other, don’t be rough on each other.
Then the toughest word we have for families . . . be Patient. How patient are we with our families? Parents, how patient are you with your kids? Children, how patient are you with your parents? Brothers and sisters, how patient are we with each other? Patience does mean to suffer, so are we willing to hang in there with each other to endure any wrong or any forbearing?
The he says finally, to bear with one another. Bearing means to hold on to each other, never to let each other go. To endure and to be strong in your life.
This is the one we all need. Forgive one another if one has a grievance. A grievance is when you have every right to be angry; when there is a cause for your grievance; when there is a ground for you to complain or blame. We are called to Forgive. Even when we have all the right reasons to be upset, we are called to forgive.
Think about that for a moment. Is there anyone in your family right now that you need to forgive? Life is short and precious. You never know when that life may be taken away.
Then he doubles down on this and says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, you must also forgive.” We pray that in the Our Father. We must realize that God is forgiving us for every last sin in our lives, and who are we not to forgive those in our family? Those that we love.
And so, you must do all these things St. Paul says and, above all put on Love. That is the bond of affection. “If we live like this, he says, that the peace of Christ will control your hearts.” If we live like this, we can be at Peace.
Finally, be Thankful. Be thankful for your marriage. Be thankful for your children. Be thankful for your parents. Be thankful for your brothers and sisters. Try to take in the good things that you can be thankful for and that transforms everything.
He said, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly, in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms and hymns. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Do we do everything that we do for our families in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Giving thanks to God the Father through Him?
Finally, the last section of this, sometimes it is omitted because it’s challenging, we hear this part, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands”. Usually, husbands are poking their wives at that one. Then it says, “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.” Is there any bitterness in your marriage? If there is, it has to go.
So, when it says, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,” it is not what we think of in our day, of the word subordinate. Again, when we translate scripture in a very literal way, it oftentimes misses the deeper meaning. Subordinate, what it means from the Latin is ‘place yourself under the order of the husband,’ and it tells you what the order of the husband is in the very next sentence. The order of the husband is for “husbands to love their wives.” That is the order you are placing yourself under. You are not placing yourself in an abusive, manipulative relationship. You’re placing yourself under love when you let your husband love you. Then it says for “Husbands, love your wives and let go of any bitterness that you have towards them.”
It ends with, “Children, obey your parents.” I think this is one of the difficult things that children have growing up, but I tell children, “If you learn to obey your parents unless it is going against your faith or morals, do it right away. Say they ask you to do something and just do it right away immediately. First of all, it’s much more peaceful in the house when there is no arguing and there is no exhausting; just do it and get it over with.
Secondly, it is going to help you be saints because over and over and over in your life, you learn to obey your parents and do it immediately; we’re much more likely to do it immediately when God asks us to do something. If we do what God wants us to do, we will become saints.
Everything here is reciprocal because it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children.” Each relationship is saying, be loving towards each other. “Do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.”
Having reflected on these readings, what arises in your heart? How has the love been towards your family? Has your marriage been loving and tender, patient, and kind? Has your parenting been good and not provocative to your children? Children, have you obeyed your parents? Do you love your brothers and sisters? And, as our parents grow older, do we care patiently and gently with them?
Chance is, through this whole litany, there is probably a part in each and every one of our lives and each and every one of our hearts that we know we haven’t been living. We’re so blessed to have this model of the Holy Family.
If you have been hurt by your family in some way or disappointed by your parents, I want you to know that the Holy Family is your family. We have Mary, the mother that loves you so much. You have Joseph, this saint of a father, who loves you so much. You have Jesus, who wants to be your brother and actually be one with you in the Eucharist. He wants to bring you into this Holy Family so you can know this love, and out of this love, we can help our family to be holy. We can have our family to be the loving family that God intends.