FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH ON SUNDAY DECEMBER 27, 2020 (R. 1: Sirach 3: 2- 6, 12- 14; Psalm: 128: 1- 5; R. 2: Colossians 3: 12- 21; Gospel: Luke 2: 22- 40)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
A Bishop visited a Catholic elementary school one Monday morning. He asked the second graders, “What did Jesus say in the Bible about marriage?” None of them had an answer. The Bishop added, “I have a special gift for anyone who can tell me what Jesus said in the Bible about marriage.” One of the second graders then responded, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”
When we were growing up as little children, some of us dreamt of getting married to the love of our life, someone who will love and cherish us always; someone with whom we will have healthy, beautiful, handsome, intelligent, and obedient children, to live in a mansion and go on fun-filled vacations. But life is not a dream, life is real, and so things don’t always turn out the way we saw them in our dreams.
When I see how much people spend in preparations for wedding, I say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” When the groom and the bride say the words of the vows, “For better for worse…” I remember the words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” How many of you who are married, looking back to your wedding day, can confidently say you knew what you were getting yourself into? How many of you can sincerely say that you have not received some surprises in your marriage, the good, the bad and the ugly? “Father, forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.” But as a people of faith, we refuse to regret, we may not know what we were doing, but we know the one who knows the end from the beginning, and so we trust in God, and we continue to make the vows.
When we share our joys, when we share happiness with others, they are multiplied for us, but when we share our pains, when we share our sorrows with others, we are relieved of the burden. This becomes more rewarding when we share our experiences and listen to others share theirs. We come to discover that we are not alone in the struggles and that no one is having it all smooth. The other persons’ experiences might even be worse, but maybe they only have better coping skills, and we learn from them.
As we come to the end of 2020, the Church encourages us today to reflect on our families by comparing notes with others, not just with our contemporaries, but also with those gone before us “marked with the sign of faith.” Specifically, the Church presents to us today, a model family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At this point, someone might protest that Joseph had it too easy, after all, his wife the Virgin Mary was sinless, and his only Son was God himself. Well, if that is your point, imagine the wife you are about getting married to showing up with pregnancy that you are not responsible for and she tells you the Holy Spirit did it. When the time came for the birth of Jesus, there was no room for them in the inn. At his presentation in the Temple in today’s Gospel passage, Simeon did not even make things easy for them, he prophesied that the child will cause a lot of “troubles” and that a sword will pierce Mary. Imagine the words to use in congratulating a young couple who just had their first child. Imagine going to Mass with your twelve year old, he disappears after the Mass, it takes you three more days to find him, and after finding him, as parents, you tell him how hard it was for you searching for him for three days, and he turns the blame back to you saying, “Does common sense not tell you that I should be where I am now?” Yet, Mary pondered all these in her heart and trusted in God. Mary and Joseph certainly had a lot of troubles, but they were victorious because they were patient with each other, they loved each other and they trusted in God.
St. Paul gives us the secret to succeed as a family when he said in the second reading, “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so.” It is very easy to point accusing fingers when it comes to this. I find it very interesting whenever this reading is read by a lector who is a married woman with her husband at the same Mass. When she gets to the line that says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord.” I imagine her husband saying, “I never knew that was even in the Bible, I just hope she is able to hear herself.” But St. Paul will tell the husband, wait a minute, there is also something for you, “Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them.” Now, at this point, the children will be pinching themselves and whispering to one another, “This is becoming very interesting, at least, we now have someone who can talk to Dad and Mom.” Finally, St. Paul will say, “That reminds me, and you children, obey your parents in everything because that pleases the Lord.” So, everyone has got a responsibility to make the family work.
There is a lot of attack on the family. The devil knows that the failure of the family is the failure of the world, and so the devil began to attack the family at the root from the Garden of Eden. Jesus came into this world as a human being. He chose to come through the family to restore the sanctity and the dignity of the family. You are not alone, Jesus is on your side, and he wants your family to succeed. Joseph and Mary are there to support you with their good examples and prayers. Let us all join to pray that all our families may be like the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph, until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.