Feast of the Holy Family – Cycle B
Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 Lk 2:22-40
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and I wanted to share with you this idea that the family is a tree that starts out as a seed, and when watered by the love of God grows into the a beautiful and peaceful community of love.
I married my Sister..?
This past summer I went to California and married my Sister
Ok, that sounds very wrong. Let me be a little more precise. This past summer I had the great joy of officiating the wedding vows when my brother-in-law John married my Sister in California.
Marriage – the Seed of Love
Weddings are a time of incredible joy – because it is the birth of a new family. Part of the reason why we celebrate Marriage with weddings is because married love calls us to commitment, to faithfulness to one another for the rest of our lives. This is the principle difference between marriage and co-habitation, in marriage we go before God, the Church, and the whole world to publicly and freely declare are total commitment to love one another for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. The consequence is that family is born out of that commitment to love. There is intensity in that love, it is like a flare, that burns hot, bright and nothing can quench – not even the sea. Another way of describing this love is that it is like a seed – it is packed with all of the blessings, and struggles that lie ahead for that couple, all that is necessary for a good and holy life. Marriage is a seed that is packed into an intense little bundle, just waiting to get out.
Riding a Bike
Entering into the sacrament of marriage is like learning to ride a bike. We can watch movies about it, we can read books about it, we can watch other people live it out, but until we say I do, we have no clue what marriage is really like. I remember the day when I married my wife Tina, I remember standing at the altar, and watching her come up the aisle towards me. I had no clue what I was getting into, but it did not matter, because I knew that this was a vocation that God had called us to, and that He would be the one to back us up.
Relationship is the focus of the readings
The focus of our readings today is on relationship. The birth of Christ reveals to us that God is all about relationship. It is the relationship of love between the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit that we are invited by Christ to share in. In the first reading from Sirach, we learn of how husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters are to relate to one another. God is helping us to understand a right relationship with our families in order to prepare us to be in relationship with Him for all eternity.
One of my brother Deacons refers to this Sunday as “Ribs Sunday” – because when we get to the part of St. Paul’s letter where he says “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.” Some husbands will often nudge their wives in the ribs and give a “knowing” look. This is followed a few moments later by a responding dig in when the next verse is read – “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.” How do these attitudes towards relationship help us to grow in love for one another?
Wives be subordinate to your husbands
Let’s start with the wives part, When St. Paul says “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.” He is expressing an idea of mutual love that is more clearly stated in his letter to Ephesians, where he says that “husbands and wives are to submit to one another as unto the Lord”. This is a difficult scripture for us to hear today, so I think that we need to struggle with it in an honest way. All too often this scripture has been used to justify some truly destructive behavior and situations. St. Paul is not trying to relegate women to a second-class status, or to justify remaining in abusive situations, but rather it is an expression of trust in our relationship of love that is backed up by Christ. When we freely submit ourselves to Christ’s love we can be confident that He will care for us because He has our best interests at heart.
Husband’s love your wives…
Now let’s move on to the husband’s role. St. Paul says to us “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ Loved the Church” – How did Christ show his love for the Church?
[[PAUSE – POINT TO THE CROSS AND SAY WITH EMPHASIS]]
He died for her!
Brothers – let us love our wives!
Brothers – let us remember our commitment to be good husbands to our wives – to give up our lives for our families. This is not an easy challenge because it calls us to conversion, to change our ways. Take a moment to think about the actions or habits that we have that are sucking the love out of our marriages. What habits of sin do we allow to rob our marriages and families of life?
We have been entrusted with the sacred duty to guarding our families from the evil that kills them. We are called to sacrifice, as Christ sacrificed, to bring about abundant life for our families.
Husband and Wife Homework
I want to invite all of the husbands and wives here today to reflect on these passages from Colossians as an examination of conscience for our marriages. Honestly share with one another where our relationships are filled with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” Let us give thanks to God for the areas where we do these things, and work towards changing those areas of our marriages where we fail.
The Love of Christ is Water and Light…
The Sacrament of Marriage puts into right-relationship the love of husband and wife. When we enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, we root ourselves in the love of Christ, we ask Him to be the guarantor of our vows. In marriage, we invite Christ into our relationship of love, so that we can learn from Him who is the creator of all love. When Christ walks with us He strengthens and purifies our love for one another. The love of Christ is like water and light to the seed, it causes the seed to germinate and grow.
Children are a Blessing from God
Another one of those “riding your bike” moments found in family life is the blessing of children. The Jews always considered children to be a blessing from God. We see this in Sirach when he says “Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children”. Again, in the Gospel a few weeks back we heard of how God blessed St. Elizabeth in her old age when she conceived John the Baptist, and again, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with children when they conceived Isaac. If we go all the way back to Adam and Eve, we see the original intention of marriage, that “the two should become one flesh”, and that God “blessed them and said – be fertile and multiply”.
From Seed to Sapling - Children
Children bless our marriage, because they transform our lives from being this focused seed of intense love into a sapling. Watered and fed by the light of Christ marriage blossoms and grows. In this way married love reflects the creative love of God. Our love overflows and must be shared with children. Children bless us because they call us to a new level of love, to sacrificial love. Think back to those first moments that you shared with your children, as your mind wrestled with the idea that God has entrusted this soul into your care.
Contraception destroys the love of marriage
As a culture, we find it more and more difficult to identify with this idea that children are a blessing from God. One of the reasons why is the prevalence of contraception in our society. Our culture teaches that if we don’t practice contraception then we are irresponsible and foolish. Our Church teaches that when we do practice contraception we are sinning against the 6th commandment because we are rejecting God’s blessing by intentionally destroying His gift of fertility.
Children become a burden
When we loose sight of the fact that children are a blessing from God they become a burden, an inconvenience, a trophy of accomplishment, or a commodity that we can buy and sell at the fertility clinic when we want.
From Sapling to Tree to a Forest
As our family tree grows up, it matures from a sapling into a tree. That creative love that began as a little seed of love between husband and wife grows to be open to children and to life. When our children become adults they fall in love and our family grows yet again, as we welcome into our marriage in-laws and then best of all grandchildren. Eventually, if we allow God to work in our lives the tiny seed of love that we began with all those many years ago will grow into an entire forest of trees, each with its own special gifts and hidden treasures. The question is – are we willing to let God order our family relationships so that our families can become Holy Families?