The Christian Family

December 30, 2007


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.    

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