Homily: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Happy Third Day of Christmas!

As you may know by now, today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Before I preach about that, however. Can anyone tell me what is another feast that the Church celebrates today? The Feast of John the evangelist, Jesus’ beloved disciple. John wrote one of the four gospels and the Book of Revelations. However, the unique reason for remembering him today is that John represents each of us as adopted children of the Holy Family. Let’s take a quick journey to understand why. First, fix your gaze at the Jesus crucified in front of you. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Imagine that you are John standing with Mary at the foot of the cross as I read the following scripture verse:

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”[1]

Let those words resonate in your heart for a moment.

What a blessing that John remained faithful to Jesus until the bitter end. In doing so, all humanity became members of the Holy Family. If you forget anything that I say to you today, I pray that you remember Jesus’ words to John every time you gaze at Him on the cross.

Now, let me talk about the Holy Family. When you think about the Holy Family: What word comes to your mind? I will give you a brief moment to reflect on that. Keep that word in your heart. After Mass, I encourage you to contemplate in private or with a group or as a family about why that particular word came into your heart. For me, the word that comes to mind is the virtue of perseverance.  The reason is that the Holy Family, by their lives, are examples of the miracles that can take place when our hearts are filled with the fruit of perseverance. Through perseverance and trust in God, we, like the Holy Family, can overcome, give meaning, and strive despite adverse events in our lives.

Jesus’ humility gave us the miracle of eternal salvation. The the Son of God did not have to submit himself to judgment, humiliation, and torture. He, however, chose to humble himself for the sake of our salvation.  Every time I serve on Mass, I am reminded of that. During the Eucharistic Prayer, you will witness me pouring wine and water on the priest’s chalice. At that time, I will say the following words on your behalf:

“By the mystery of this wine and water, may we come to share in the divinity of Jesus, who humble himself to share our humanity.”

At 13 years of age, Mary’s “yes” to God gave us the miracle of the Incarnation of Jesus. Mary’s perseverance gave her the strength to witness the painful prophecy related by Simeon:

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce – so that the thoughts of many be revealed.”

All mothers here can probably feel in their hearts how difficult it must have been for Mary to hear those words. Yet, she persevered all the way to the foot of the cross.

Joseph’s obedience exemplifies the miracle of patience. Most men in Joseph’s time and even now would have run away from Mary or walked out of his father’s responsibilities. Instead, he embraced them. Like Mary and Jesus, Joseph persevered in his vocation to do God’s will.

The Holy Family is the universal family. Jesus is the savior of humanity. Mary is not only the Mother of God; she is also our mother.  Joseph is more than Jesus’ adopted father. He is the Patron of the Universal Church.

In the Holy Family, we find love, strength, and motivation to persevere in life. The Church recognizes that to be the case. For example, in his new Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis proclaimed Dec 8, 2020, through  Dec 8, 2021, as the year of Joseph. In his letter, Pope Francis stresses ‘the creative courage’ of St. Joseph, which ’emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties.” “The carpenter of Nazareth,” explains the Pope, was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting in divine providence.” He had to deal with “the concrete problems” his Family faced, problems faced by other families in the world.” [2]

The efforts to celebrate the Holy Family as a sacramental symbol of perseverance are happening in our diocese as well. Bishop Vasquez has declared today as the beginning of the Year of the Domestic Church in our diocese. “This day will begin the year-long observance of the home as the first school of Christian life.” Recognizing the impact that 2020 has had in our society, Bishop Vasquez acknowledges that many families and individuals  are experiencing challenges and difficulties securing “material or spiritual resources.”[3] However, his hope and prayer are that each of us can find in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a model of perseverance that we can emulate through worship, action, and community. A simple way to start the year of the “Domestic Church” is by imitating  John the evangelist and take Mary into to our hearts.  

Let us pray:

O God, creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the human Family. In history’s moment, when all was ready, you sent your Son to dwell in time, “practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity.” Teach us the sanctity of human love; show us the value of the Domestic Church; and help us live in peace with all people, which we may share in your life forever. With the intercession of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, we ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen. – Prayer for the Diocese of Austin Year of the Domestic Church

St. Michael the Archangel, First Champion of the Kingship of Christ, pray for us.

[1] https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/19

[2] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-12/pope-francis-proclaims-year-of-st-joseph.html

[3] https://austindiocese.org/domestic-church

The Holy Family

Reading I – Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Responsorial Psalm – 128:1-2,3,4-5
Reading II – Colossians 3:12-21
Reading III – Luke 2:22-40

In his Letter to Families in 1994, Pope John Paul II eloquently expressed that of the many paths we walk:

the family is the first and the most important. It is a path common to all, yet one which is particular, unique and unrepeatable, just as every individual is unrepeatable; it is a path from which man cannot withdraw. Indeed, a person normally comes into the world within a family, and can be said to owe to the family the very fact of his existing as an individual” (John Paul II, 2)

As we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the words of Pope John Paul II find justification in today’s readings.  The scriptures of the past week offer glimpses of the Holy Family’s glorious path to God’s promise. Key to their strength as a family was their understanding of the importance of obedience to God: “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons” (Sir 3:2).

As children of God and parents of Christ, Mary and Joseph fulfilled their obligations and reaped the rewards of their obedience in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. They did this not for their sake but for ours. Likewise, Jesus, by his life and death, modeled Deuteronomy’s words: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and that you may prosper in the land of the LORD your God is giving you” (Dt 5:16).

In Jesus’ obedience, we find the bond of perfection (cf. Col 3:14). It is through his love that “the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body” (Col 3:15) with his church. It is in our union with Christ through his church that we echo John Paul II’s words: “Following Christ who ‘came’ into the world ‘to serve’ (Mt 20:28), the Church considers serving the family to be one of her essential duties. In this sense both man and the family constitute ‘the way of the Church’ (John Paul II, 1).

By honoring God, Joseph and Mary became the holy and beloved parents we are called to be: “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways” (cf. Ps 128: 1). Through their parenting, they taught us how to love our children with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (Col 3:12).

Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was the center of a strong family. They knew this not by their own accord but by God’s grace. It was this understanding that guided Mary in motherhood.  It was what gave Joseph courage to stay with Mary; and it was what led them to present Jesus for consecration. It is through the consecration that the “child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God” (Lk 2:40).

As we honor the Holy Family’s obedience and love, let’s pray that their example becomes embedded in our hearts. That we, too, can be faithful to God and live our lives filled with love, mercy, and care not only for our children but for all children and families living among us.