In many of our Christian Churches, the twelve days of Christmas present to us the various aspects of Family Life. Christmas Day constitutes the holy family when Jesus was born with Mary and His Mother and Joseph as His foster father. Last Sunday churches celebrated the feast of the holy family. This coming Sunday is the Feast of the epiphany reminding us that Jesus came not only for the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well. The Scriptures portray this event by the three wise men who followed a star and brought them to the holy family.
Here in America we have special days set aside to honor the heroes of our country. There is George Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Martin Luther King's Birthday and Memorial Day. We also have days when we honor the various members of our families, Mother's Day and Father's Day.
So these events during the twelve days of Christmas invite us to look into our families and ask ourselves, "Are we a holy family?" Sirach 3:20 and also Psalm 128.
The church presents to us the holy family as the model family. But I'm sure we all have in the back of our minds the thought that the holy family is not your normal run of the mill family. In no way could my family be like the holy family, they lived in a different culture and they had angels directing their activities. Mary's conception of Jesus was a miracle! Looking at the holy family as a model does not mean that we imitate everything that they did or said, but it does mean capturing their spirit their attitude toward God and toward family life.
Today we know many kinds of families, nuclear families; extended families; dysfunctional families; single parent families; foster families; step families; even the holy family was not the normal family because Joseph was a foster father.
We are asked as Christian families to imitate this attitude of the holy family in two virtues, one is respect and the other is submission. This is a respect and submission as understood in the Bible.
Respect is shown first of all by parents to their children and children to their parents. Paul tells us that we are God's chosen ones, that means that each member of the family is precious and sacred. Children are not their parent's slaves, parents are not their children's slaves, but each one has his/her responsibilities within the family.
There should be submission in the sense of the Bible and this means that each member of the family should listen to and respect and honor the opinions of each other. Husbands and wives should submit to each other in the sense of respecting and honoring each other. Children submit to their parents in the sense that parents have a God-given authority over their children. Jesus himself, submitted to the Heavenly Father and his earthly parents.
The development of character; the development of values, and outlook and the ability to get along with others are all directly related to family life.
There is a danger in parents holding on too tightly to their children. Children should gradually learn to be independent with responsibility.
On the other hand, there is equal danger of parents not caring enough for their children; not caring about their education; not caring about forming Christian values; not caring about who they go out with and at what hour or in what condition they come home.
Children need a framework of discipline within which they can safely grow. And it should be a framework not based upon how your neighbor raises his children, but based upon your own ideals and your own responsibilities as parents in raising your children.
What I say does not come from a expert on family life but comes from one who grew up in a family of 13 children and has been close to family all my life. Many years ago when I was in high school my cousin, who was a priest, told me, it's more challenging being a parent than to be a priest. At that time I did not agree with him but not I understand.
The Gospel, Luke 2:52, tells us that "Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and man." We can be also sure that Mary and Joseph grew in understanding as all parents grow in understanding. We might ask what did Mary and Joseph do to allow the Christ-child to grow in wisdom and age and grace. No doubt they practiced the qualities outlined in Paul (Colossians 3:12-21: compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, thankfulness, live.
What a great examination of conscience this list offers to family! It might be a good idea to write this list on the kitchen refrigerator door and occasionally see how well these are being lived out in the family.
We have to be realistic and admit that family brings sorrow as well as joy. The holy family also reminds us of this. Simeon in Luke 2:34-35 foretells the crucifixion when he says to Mary, "and your soul a sword shall pierce." Sometimes in family life our hearts are broken. It might be a teenager with a drug problem, it might be a parent with a nervous breakdown, it might be a broken home, and it might be a tragic death in the family.
It is not always true that the family that prays together stays together, for sometimes saintly parents can have wild children and sometimes saintly children can have sinful parents.
On one of his visits to American Pope John Paul II said about America, "As goes the family, so goes America."
Such a feast day gives us the opportunity to thank God for our families, to ask God to continue to protect and guide our families. The best gift we can give to our communities and country is a healthy wholesome and productive family.
Fr. Kevin Gormley
Pastor, St. Peter Catholic Church, Marshall and holy family, Sweet Springs.