Archive for December, 2007

The Christian Family

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

December 30, 2007

Homily

Holy Family

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3: 12-21; Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

One of my favorite movies this time of year is Christmas Vacation.  The overdone Christmas Trees and lights; aged parents who only talk about their aches and pains, and who still treat their adult children as, well, children;  and everybody’s worst dream for a visiting relative- Cousin Eddie, complete with leisure suits, a 100 year old camper, and an awful dog.  Yes indeed, you can all laugh, because you have all experienced some element of this exaggerated mess in your own families as you watch Clark W Griswald try to host the “perfect Family Christmas”.   

My wife reminded me during the film, that Clark seems to be sinning continually!  “Little things” like his eyes all over the sales clerk, mistreating his neighbors, and loosing his temper.  So, even though Clark’s goal was to bring the whole family together for a fun filled time at Christmas, you can see that something was dreadfully wrong.  There’s an obvious missing element.  Christ played no role in Clark’s Family Christmas.  The family was not functioning as a Christian Family.  Today’s liturgy is for the feast of Holy Family.  A Holy Christian family echoes the trinity- an intricate network of relationships between all the persons in the family.  All of these relationships are essential; and all of the persons are dependent on each other.  But God and his law must be integral to those relationships.

Today’s readings address three elements of a Christian Family.  In the Old Testament reading and the psalm respect and mutual cooperation between the members are advised, so that each person in the family can fulfill the role that God intended for them.  The Moms and the Dads are in charge.  Their authority comes from God- but along with that authority comes responsibility.  Parents must not abuse their authority, nor neglect their role to always love their children.  Parents educate their children in their faith by word and example.  Paul talks about how parents are to carry out these responsibilities.  Just as the new life of their children flowed from joyful and mutual self-giving to each other, so children need a home atmosphere nourished by that same joyful, self-forgetful love.  It’s not so much a matter of parenting techniques as it is a matter of parents loving one another unconditionally, as Christ loves each of them.  They even teach their children about love in their older years, because they teach their children to reciprocate the unconditional love they have received. 

The Readings remind us that children have a key role too.   They are to honor and obey their parents while they are growing up, and respect and care for them later on.  When selfishness develops in the family, it shows up as a lack of respect and a lack of mutual love.  It is then that healing is needed in the family. 

That’s where the second element comes in. It can be summed up in two simple words: I’m sorry.  If you know how to say, “I’m sorry,” your family relationships can endure and grow even through very, very difficult times.  “Put on. patience,” Paul writes, “bearing with one another and forgiving one another,  Make a commitment to always be the first one to say “I’m sorry” whenever there is the slightest need.    

 But even your best efforts to build a truly Christian family will face obstacles.  And that’s where the third element comes in.  To build a healthy Christian family, you have to expect trouble and be prepared to deal with it.   All of you have free will.  Along with it, you have a tendency towards selfishness and the sin that follows it-  and you are surrounded by family members with those same weaknesses.  The life that God gives you is a continual test.  Today’s Gospel described a family on the run, suffering, struggling just to survive.  If that’s what happened to the holiest family in history, surely you can expect the same for your families.  God permits hardships, because he knows that working together to resolve hardships will bring you closer to him.  Matthew points out that the flight to Egypt fulfilled a prophecy – it furthered God’s plan of salvation.  It is the same when you face the hardships of family life together, you grow in virtue and glorify God better when you deal with adversity,   because it is then that you have a chance to truly practice love. 

Families which exhibit these three elements- mutual respect, forgiveness, and sticking together through hardships- these are families that foster a stable, Christian society.  They are building the Kingdom of God. 

But nowadays, this ideal Family structure is being attacked.  Secular society is trying desperately to extinguish family life.  The forces behind this don’t recognize God’s plan.  They disfigure the image of God, the human family.  Their model for the family includes Homosexual unions, abortion, contraception and pre-marital sex, no-fault divorces and euthanasia.  All of these implicitly broadcast that we are our own gods, that we, not God, determine the model for life.  As we celebrate the feast of Holy Family, let us resolve to be Christian Families despite secular pressures. 

There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  “Everyone’s greatest blessing is also their greatest curse.”  When you think about your family today, remember, that whatever troubles you may be experiencing in it, your family has the potential to be your greatest blessing, and an avenue to the Kingdom of God.    

Obedience

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

  December 23, 2007

Homily

4th Sunday of Advent

Is 7:10-14; Rom 1: 1-7; Mt 1: 18-24

Dc. Larry Brockman

Whatever happened to Obedience specifically, religious obedience?  It seems to be missing from today’s vocabulary. 

Many people nowadays pick and choose what they will accept as part of their faith.  Abortion, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the need to come to Mass weekly, the Immaculate Conception, divorce for convenience, are all good examples.  There are Church teachings in each of these areas that are matters of faith.  Yet somehow our society has changed our way of thinking about Faith. 

Maybe it’s because our educational system teaches us to question everything as individuals, especially to question authority.  We are not taught to just believe and be obedient any more.   Yet, when it comes to matters of Faith, that is exactly what we are supposed to do.  God wants us to be obedient to him just because he says so.  That obedience is essential because only through obedience can we accomplish God’s will-  the establishment of the Kingdom of God. 

Now, we can never know the mind of God;  So, we should have no expectation to fully understand the why, how, and intricate details of God’s law or will.  God just wants us to believe, and to be obedient.  Today’s readings emphasize that kind of obedience, the kind of obedience that follows faith.  As Paul says: “Through him we have received the grace of Apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith”.  You see, when you have faith in God, then you love Him and trust Him.  John’s Gospel emphasizes that if you Love God, then you do His will.  That means you are obedient to Him, whether you understand his law or not and whether it’s convenient or not.  That is the obedience of faith.   

Contrast the events in today’s two readings- OT and Gospel  First, Joseph’s story is a wonderful example of the obedience of faith.  Imagine being in Joseph’s shoes.  You find that your betrothed is with child.  Your culture says that you can dismiss her.  Indeed, Joseph was going to quietly divorce her rather than expose her shame.  But then, Joseph had a dream.  He was told by the angel that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph believed, and accepted Mary and the child.  Now, there is no way that Joseph could have understood the supernatural nature of Mary’s pregnancy.  Jesus conception through the Holy Spirit has been studied by the great theologians for 2000 years.  And in all that time, nobody has fully understood how it could happen.  In fact, many have questioned it, and fallen away in faith.  But Joseph did not question it.  He believed, and was obedient to God’s will as given by the angel.  Joseph did not challenge the angel for an explanation.  He did not have to understand why.  For Joseph, it was enough that God had communicated His will. 

Now consider the story about Ahaz.  Ahaz was a king of Judah in Isaiah’s time.  Ahaz had seen the Northern Kingdom of Israel consumed by the Assyrian enemy.  Isaiah prophesied that everything would be OK as long as the Southern Kingdom of Judah believed and followed the Lord.  But Ahaz did not buy it.   In fact, he made an alliance with the Egyptians to protect himself.  In short, Ahaz did not trust in the Lord, he had no faith, and he was not obedient.  Ahaz did not ask for a sign because he had his own path plotted to follow.  And he didn’t want to consider an alternative.  Yet, the Lord gave him a sign- confirming that the Lord would be with him if he put his trust in the Lord.  It was a sign Ahaz and his successor ignored none the less.  So, this lack of obedience led to the Babylonian exile.  And a permanent rupture in the Jewish Kingdom on earth.   

These two readings make a very clear point.  We must accept the whole of our faith, and be obedient to the Lord.  Because only through obedience do we build the kingdom of God.  Joseph believed, and through his obedience, Jesus was born and He established his Kingdom.  Ahaz did not believe, was not obedient, and the old kingdom fell apart.  At this special time of the year, we will be gathering to celebrate that coming of Christ the King at Christmas.  It is a time for us to resolve to believe in the miracle of the incarnation.  And not only the incarnation, but the whole of our faith; and then to resolve to be obedient, as a Church, to our Faith.  As a community, we can and will be able to build the Kingdom of God.  We cannot envision how; but we don’t have to.  It’s God’s vision that is important.  And that same God, through Jesus, will direct us, his co-workers to build the Kingdom. 

During World War II, a church in Frankfurt, Germany, was heavily damaged by bombs.   At war’s end the parishioners began repairing.   One badly broken object was a statue of Christ.   They finally found and put together all the parts, except the hands.  After considerable debate and discussion about engaging a sculptor to make a new pair of hands, the people of the parish decided to leave the statue without hands.   And they put a plaque beneath it that reads: “Christ has no hands but our hands.”