FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

Today, the feast of the Holy Family, shows how Jesus needed a family in order to grow to maturity. The Christian community is our wider family. It reminds us that we have a common Father, and that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot reach maturity in isolation from others. Let us pause to reflect on our ties with this community.

It is our sins that make us want to go our own way independent of the community. Let us confess our sins to God, and to our brothers and sisters.

I confess to almighty God etc.

HEADINGS FOR READINGS

First Reading (Ecclesiasticus 322-6. 12-14). This reading could be seen as a brief commentary on the commandment to honour one’s parents. This entails not only obeying them when we are young, but looking after them when they are old.

Second Reading (Colossians 3: 12-21). This stresses the atmosphere of love that should reign in a Christian family- It places special emphasis on mutual forgiveness.

Gospel (Matthew 2:13-15.19-23). We see the love of Mary and Joseph for the Child Jesus. They willingly uproot themselves and go into exile in order to protect him from Herod.

HOMILY

If you look at a landscape it may be covered with snow or with green grass and wild flowers. It all depends on the presence or absence of the sun. In the same way, if you look into a home where there are young children, you will find signs of neglect or signs of care, depending on the presence or absence of love. Let me tell you a story about a young lad called ‘Johnny the weasel’.

There is definitely something broken in Johnny. No, he didn’t fall off a roof or anything like that. But without a doubt there is something broken in him – inside his mind or heart, it’s hard to tell. He’s suffering from feelings of rejection. When a young person is rejected something inside of him is broken. Johnny is fifteen years old, the second youngest in a family of seven. He grew up in a large urban area. Ten years ago his father left them. The mother did the best she could, but it wasn’t good enough. Johnny was sent to his granny’s to make room at home. There he had a room to himself and pretty well as much food as he wanted, but it wasn’t home. He felt rejected.

He was in trouble from the age of about ten. Fighting, matching from school, shop-lifting, and so on. Granny did the best she could to control him. But she was getting on in years and he was able to fool her.

At fourteen he was into house-breaking. As he was small and able to squeeze into small spaces, the gang to which he belonged called him ‘the weasel’. By this time too he was drinking. Next it was on to joy-riding in stolen cars. Soon he was well known to the juvenile court. On one occasion he was sent to a reformatory for six months but when he came out it was back to his old ways once more.

However, just then a new lock-away centre had been opened by the authorities. It was designed for youngsters who had become hardened by crime. Its main purpose was to remove them from the crime scene, but it was also hoped that it might give them a chance to reform. Johnny was sent to the new centre.

Here he had not just one, but a team of professionals looking after him, all so-called experts in fixing up broken kids. There was a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a welfare officer, a house father and mother, and so on. Each year it cost the state a staggering £40,000 to keep him there.

Will all those experts succeed in fixing Johnny? It’s possible but far from certain. And just think of it. All those experts could be got rid of in the morning. Their work could be done, and done far more effectively, by just two people! Two people? Yes, two people: a man and a woman. Not the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman either. Just two very ordinary people – two parents.

What am I saying? This: that if Johnny had two parents who loved him and cared for him in the first place, he would never have been broken, and he would never have needed all those experts. The story shows what could happen to any child if his parents don’t love and care for him, especially when he is young. At the same time it shows what a splendid job parents do – when they do it.

Of all experts they are the best and the most necessary. To succeed at their job, they don’t need long years of training or lots of letters after their names. All they need is a caring heart. From the heart comes the sunshine in which their children will grow. No family is perfect, but no better place for raising children has been devised.

People who are deprived of the love of parents will suffer from a wounded heart and will be subject to bouts of loneliness and anguish. Children who are born into a loving home have deep soil into which they can sink their roots. They know their origins, and will always have a firm anchor in their lives.

Many children never experience unconditional love, that is, they are never loved for themselves. The message that comes across to them is: ‘If you are good I will love you, if you are bad I will reject you’. In others words, they are brought up on the fear of punishment and the promise of rewards. But this is the way animals are trained. Each child must be made to feel that he or she is precious to its parents, and loved by them in a unique way.

Ideally a child needs two parents, two parents of course who love one another. Parental love must not be over-possessive. The bond must be liberating for the parents and for the child. In the western world we attach more importance to having a nice home than to having a loving home. What use is a warm house if people are cold with one another? What use is a beautiful house if it lacks tenderness and friendship?

‘The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for one another’. (Anon)

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Let us pray to our heavenly Father that a climate of love may reign in all our families. R. Lord, hear us in your love.

For the Christian community: that it may set an example of unity, peace, and love for a fragmented and troubled world. [Pause). We pray to the Lord.

For the government of our country: that is may strengthen and support the family as the basic unit of society. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.

For families scattered by war or politics, and for single parent families. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.

That we may not be content merely to receive, but that we may be prepared to give and to share in our families and in the community at large. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Lord, grant that we may praise rather than criticise, sympathise rather than condemn, give rather than receive, so that our families may become places where love and peace reign. We ask through Christ our Lord.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

(Children learn What they live).

If children live with criticism

they learn to condemn.

If they live with hostility

they learn to fight.

If they live with ridicule

they learn to be shy.

If they live with shame

they learn to feel guilty.

If they live with tolerance

they learn to be patient.

If they live with encouragement

they learn to have confidence.

If they live with praise

they learn to appreciate.

If they live with fairness

they learn what justice is.

If they live with security

they learn what faith is.

If they live with approval

they learn to like themselves.

If they live with acceptance and friendship

they learn to find love and God in the world.