Once upon a time, a carpenter approached a house early one morning and asked the owner if he could be of help for any repair in the house. The owner of the house thought for a while and says to the carpenter “look at that neighboring house, it belongs to my younger brother and we do not get along. Please erect something that would block us from seeing each other!” The carpenter assures the house owner that he would do a good job and he started the work while the house owner leaves for a business meeting.
By evening, the house owner returned to discover that the carpenter had erected a beautiful and simple bridge connecting his house to that of his brother. He was still admiring the bridge from his side when his brother emerged from the other side, and they met in the middle of the bridge with a warm hug. The younger brother says to his elder brother, “I am sorry for all that I did. You are so kind to build this bridge which indicates that you still want to have something to do with me, I am sorry”. They hugged each other and cried.
The house owner was so pleased that he decided to give the carpenter other jobs to do in the house, but the carpenter replies and says to him, “Let me go because I have seen that there are still many bridges to build for other families out there. Call me when there is the need for another bridge”. Indeed, many families need bridges.
There are many things we consciously choose in life, but not the family into which we are born. If we were to pick our respective families, most people would prefer royalty and wealth as birthplaces while poor and dejected homes would remain childless. The family is not all about riches and comfort. The family is not all about good times and laughter. The family is a full package: the joyful and the sorrowful, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs!
Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus Christ, Mary, and Joseph, we consider our contributions to the building or destruction of our various families. Do we bring light or darkness? Do we bring pain or gain? Do we help or hinder? Do we pray together or prey on each other? Do we support or separate? Do we understand or misunderstand each other? Do we build bridges or block the link we share?
The story of the childlessness of Abraham in the First Reading (Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3) after years of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of making him the father of a great nation, leaves us with the central lessons of patient and faithful waiting. The word of God tells us in in the Book of Isaiah (40: 31) that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Patience is a virtue that every family needs. We need to be patient with God (Psalm 37:7) and with one another (Eph. 4:3). The Holy Family of Nazareth gives us a perfect example of a patient household especially with the events surrounding the Nativity, the search to kill the child Jesus and the flight to Egypt.
Every family that overlooks the virtue of patience would have pains. All the members of the family may not be equally gifted. Some could be stronger than others. Patience should be an essential compass in the family navigation. To be patient with each other is an evidence of love and care. St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:4), says among other things that love is patient, love is kind.
The family is both a sacred institution and a gift from God. Like all the gifts from God, the family is also under the furious attack of the devil. It is very evident that the easiest way to destroy the world is to destroy families. The family is the most vulnerable group in the world, and there is a need for the various families in the world to bring God into the daily life of the family.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 2:22-40), tells us about the presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple. One could wonder why the narrative of the Presentation of the Lord is essential on the feast of the Holy Family, but the reason is obvious. It was both the presentation of Jesus Christ as well as the presentation of the Holy Family to God. By implication, we are invited to present our families to God.
The variety of family problems that are evident in our day and age are indications of the absence of God in the family. Most families could boast of several luxury cars, massive buildings, very fat bank balances but lack the smallest reflection of God. The Holy Family is celebrated today to demonstrate to us the importance of family and how to achieve optimal family life.
In Second Reading, option one (Col. 3:12-21), the apostle Paul takes the time to enumerate the virtues we need to maintain a holy family: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, patience, peace, and forgiveness. Furthermore, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands and husbands are asked to love their wives while children are taught to obey their parents. We can summarize these by recommending mutual love, respect, and commitment to God as dependable grounds for a holy and wholesome family.
More practically these suggestions could help our families become holy and more wholesome:
- Spend time with your family.
- Pray together.
- Settle quarrels and forgive as often as a problem arises.
- Invest in your family.
- Do not forget your parents.
- Teach the children the right things; never lie to them.
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, let us remember to build bridges in our families instead erecting blocks. Have a wonderful celebration.