An old man in his late eighties was brought by his only son to stay with him and his family after the death of his wife. Being old and frail he didn’t have the best table manners as he would often break the glass cups and plates on account of his shaky hands. The mess was always embarrassing especially when they had visitors. When his son and the wife could no longer entertain the inexorable breakages and embarrassment, they decided to buy wooden cups and plates for him and also provided a small table for him where he will be by himself separate from other members of the family.
Day after day the old man will be by himself at one end while his son and other members of his family would occupy the main dining table eating and sharing jokes. The old man’s grandson was however thinking seriously about the situation over and over again. One day his father saw him struggling with a piece of wood in an effort to carve out something. Curiously the father asked him what he was doing and he said that he is trying to fashion two wooden plates which he will give to his dad and mum to use for their meals when they get old. The little boy continued his work after giving his response. The little boy’s response struck his dad and mum like thunder. That evening they brought the old man back to the main table to share the meal with others. He was radiant and excited and his hands were noticeably stronger as he neither made a mess nor break anything. The next day, the family discovered that the old man died peacefully in his sleep.
In life, having somewhere to go is HOME, having someone to love is FAMILY and having both is BLESSING. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu “you don’t choose your family they are God’s gift to you as you are to them”. There is basically nobody without a family; we all belong to one. It is not by accident that the feast of the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is being celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas day. Family is important not only as the basic unit of the human society but more so as a divine construct. A reflection on the Holy Family is very important within this season of Christmas which is a family oriented celebration. It is also very expedient as family and family life in our day and age need to be revisited, reconstructed, revived and given new direction.
The First and Second Readings give us normative guidelines for families to attain peace, love and unity. In the First Reading (Sirach.3:2-6:12-14), we have some deep instructions bothering on the expectations from our relationship with our parents. The First Reading here out rightly resonates with the fourth commandment which says: “honour your father and your mother so that your days will be long in the land the Lord your God is giving to you”. Among other things children are encouraged to give due honour to their fathers. The passage goes on to tell us that this paternal honour and obedience would bring about forgiveness of sins, divine protection and answers to prayers. It went further to highlight the fact that whatever we present to our parents will also be given to us by our children; very much like reaping whatever we sow.
In the Second Reading (Col.3:12-21), St. Paul makes the matter about family cohabitation more extensive. He specifically outlined some supportive virtues in this line of thought; namely holiness, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness and above all love which binds all together under Christ. In his instruction he called on the different segments that make up the family to work toward integration and progress. Wives are to be subject to their husbands, husbands should love their wives eschewing harshness and children should obey their parents while parents in turn should not provoke the children lest they become discouraged.
The gospel reading today gives us an example of a godly family or more appropriately the HOLY FAMILY. The question that will immediately spring forth is: “what “made them holy?” This question leads us to another: “what constitutes holiness?” To be holy among other meanings has to do with being set apart and dedicated to something sacred or divine. So to answer the question, what made them holy includes but not restricted to their steadfast dedication of their lives to God and their commitment to divine direction.
It is very significant to note that the Holy Family was able achieve all the aforementioned within the framework of their vocation as members of a family. This family is called holy because it loved God above all and the members were ready to do the will of God at all times. The family is called holy because each and every one in the family revered, appreciated, and celebrated the presence of God in their family. Joseph accepted and carried out God’s plan (Matt.1:19-24; 2:19-21). Mary fully and unreservedly accepted the will of God for her with striking humility (Luke 1:38). Our Lord Jesus Christ had the doing of his Father’s will as the indelible script of his mission on earth (Matt. 26:39; Luke 22:42; Jn. 6:38). In all these instances, we can collectively agree that the first step to holiness is the readiness to submit oneself to God’s divine will. The ability to let go one’s interests and plans and concentrate on God’s own plans and will.
The holiness of this family was not without trials, temptations and difficulties. They had their sorrowful moments but they kept their faith in God. The flight to Egypt when Herod was planning to kill the infant Jesus few days after his birth is the focus of the gospel today (Matt. 2:13-15; 19-23). This was a great trial for the family. But they were able to obtain divine assistance and guidance through the obedience of Joseph and the cooperation of Mary who in retrospect could have been very fragile emerging from child birth. Obedience to divine direction does not offer excuses
The situation of many families in the world today raises profound questions and gives room for intense reflections. . Pope John Paul II was attentive to the plight of families and thus said in the encyclical Familiaris Consortio:
The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture. (FC.1).
In most families God has no place at all not to talk of obedience to His words. In times of trials most families depend not on God but on their connections and powers which often fail them. Without God most families today are staying together not living together because the peace of God is farfetched. In most families today, people are disconnected and alienated from each other because love cannot be found. In most families parents take orders from their children while the children give their attention and allegiance to unproductive friends, television, telephones, electronic games, internet and other prodigies of modern media of communication. In most families respect and obedience (to God and humans) exist as archival materials. In most families the television has taken the place of family alter where the face of God should be sought day and night; as a result of this, prayers and faith in God have become outdated practices. In most families infidelity rules while pregnancies are terminated like ripe pimples.
Today, the various families in the world are called upon to reflect the values that formed the foreground of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Our families need to be hallowed especially in a world like ours that is overwhelmed by so much profanity. We need to set our families on the part of holiness not by how many times we attend masses or other devotions but on how often we are able to love, forgive, assist, and bear with one another. There is every truth in the fact that the easiest way to destroy the world is to destroy families. This is actually the tactics of the devil and those who are knowledgeable in the things of the spirit are attentive to this and work against it.
One indisputable fact is that most families are left without servicing for a long time. Like cars and other automobiles, families need servicing every now and then. This feast of the Holy Family comes at the right time for families to gather together and revamp their structure in order to make a fresh and more reintegrating beginning as the New Year draws near. This is an auspicious time for families to take some time to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. This will be a time to accept our mistakes, make amends and work towards a better and more rewarding life in the family. Whichever family you find yourself is divinely willed; it is not by accident that you are a member of your family. There is a purpose for your being where you are now. Some people waste their lives blaming their families for the ill situations in their lives. Thus, cursing the darkness instead of bringing in a light. Though your family background may not be good enough, but your background has no right to keep your back on the ground.
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family let us make effort to imbibe those undying virtues that hallowed the little family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We don’t actually need have large family members in order to have God at the centre of our family life. Just like the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph our families can become hallowed through our commitment and attention to God in faith, hope and love for God and each other. To achieve a holy family be conscious of these:
- You must love or you lose.
- You must have patience or you have pains.
- You must understand yourselves or you cannot withstand each other.
- You must celebrate each other not just tolerate each other.
- You must enjoy each other not just endure each other.
- You must pray together in order to live (not just stay) together.
- You must grow together or you grow apart.
- You must maintain peace or you tore into pieces.
- You must give or you will never receive.
Have a blissful celebration of the Holy Family.