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Homily – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – December 28, 2008

January 4, 2009




This is a time of year when we celebrate family, isn’t it?  We gather as family, as much as we can; we have meals together; we call family members who are too far to get home, and we write letters or emails, with pictures or video, to those who are too far away to call.  We remember those who have died, and we celebrate the new lives among us with “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments.  For many of us, if not most, Christmas is about family.

But Christmas is about more than family, right?  Christmas, when you boil it down to the most important thing, isn’t about how much we spend on travel or gifts.  It’s not about how many parties we attend or give.  It’s not about most of the things the world holds out to us as important.

Our history as God’s people is full of examples of what’s really important about Christmas.  And what’s really important…is faithfulness.  The faithfulness of our forbears is the real point of Christmas.  The faith that led folks to do things that were unreasonable, to do things that were impossible, is the real miracle of Christmas.

And in the story of their faithfulness, we get a lesson for our families, whether they are families of one or of dozens.

In our readings, we see the faithfulness that led to Christ coming to Earth.  We see the beginning of His human family in Abram, who decided to listen to God when God promised Him descendants as numerous as the stars.  Why should he have listened, Abram?  He was old. So was his wife.  They’d been childless all their married lives.  In the view of the world, they were less than other people because they were barren.  But Abram listened, and obeyed God, and God honored that obedience and that faith.

Paul explains more.  Abraham went when God told him to.  Abraham trusted, even though it was illogical to trust.  And he had faith enough to be prepared to sacrifice his only son, because he knew he could count on the God who had done so much for him already.

Mary and Joseph carried on that faithfulness.  Think about it:  Mary and Joseph trusted God’s messenger, and went ahead with their marriage.  They trusted God to take care of them on the trip to Bethlehem.  And they were faithful to God’s law in bringing Jesus to the Temple.  And in fulfilling their responsibilities as parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus, The Christ to manhood!

These families we read about today are the examples we’re asked to follow.  We’re asked to be faithful to God’s call on our families, to be as holy as we are able to manage.  And God asks a lot of us, doesn’t He?

We’re asked to trust God as our families form, to be open to life however it arrives with us.  We’re asked to trust God with our children, to allow Him to guide them as they discern the path they should take in life.  We’re asked to be faithful to the guidance of the Church, to do certain things and to avoid certain things, because doing so aids us in our lives of faith.

And most of all, we are asked to put God first in our lives as individuals and as families.  Joseph could have been dishonored.  Mary could have been stoned to death as an adulteress!  Simeon and Anna could have given up on God’s promise, and just crawled off to die!  But they all faced their difficulties, and were faithful!

And that’s what we’re called to do, brothers and sisters!  Whatever our circumstance in life, God just asks us to be faithful.  If our job is threatened, God asks us to believe He’ll help us get through!  If we have a child who disappoints, God asks us to believe He’ll work on that child!  If we’re faced with an illness, or an unexpected crisis in our families, God asks us to remain faithful to Him through the trial!

But, God, it’s hard to be faithful, isn’t it?  So much around us calls us to not be!

Difficult marriage?  It’s so easy to seek comfort outside of it!  Children who are a disappointment?  Well, we can just kick ’em out of the house and wash our hands of them! Unexpected pregnancy?  We can just make a trip down to Memphis and “fix the problem”!  Old and sick?  Or young, but terminally ill and in pain?  Well, we can fix that with a trip to a sympathetic doctor!  Money problems?  Can’t pay the bills, or losing the house?   Well, maybe I can hit the number in Lotto this week, or head to Caruthersville and make it up! Or maybe the government will fix it for me!

Funny, thing, though:  all of those “solutions” leave out the most important thing:  God!  Our problems aren’t unique, brothers and sisters.  And if our forbears in faith had taken these “easy” ways out, what would we have to celebrate this Christmas?  In fact, what would any of this mean, if Joseph had simply “divorced her quietly”, or if Mary had refused God’s request?  Nothing!

Christmas celebrates faithfulness.  The true meaning of Christmas in our lives is about the faith that led our predecessors in the faith to make the choices they made.  And ultimately, Christmas is about the faithfulness of the first Christians, Mary and Joseph, and the faithfulness of their ancestors, that made it possible for Christ to enter the world as a human child, like us in all things but sin.

What a gift to God it would be if we could all be more faithful in the coming year!  Does God ask us to be perfect? No!  Does He expect us to never sin? No!

But He expects us to try.  He expects us to cut those things out of our life that pull us away from Him.  He asks us to take advantage of the sacraments He gave us, as conduits of His grace.

And He asks us to be faithful.  Abraham and Sarah faithful.  Paul and the other apostles faithful.  Mary and Joseph faithful.  And in our faithfulness, He promises to bless us and our families.

Where have we been less than obedient to God?  Where can we improve our relationship with God?

God calls us to faithfulness.  Are we listening?

From → Homilies

  1. teresa permalink

    that was os nice


  2. Thanks for writeing this post! I can’t belive that it’s really almost Christmas, where does the time fly?


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