Homilies and Reflection on the Feast of the Holy Family: 12/27/15

Today is the celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, and we celebrate all families as holy as well. The Holy Family was included in my last homily at the Good Shepherd. Last Sunday I looked around our church of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, a poor church of and with the poor. My eyes rested on the  families and individuals gathered with eager faces, some lined and worn, some smiling and joyful, to celebrate closing advent with love and Christmas with the coming of God to earth in a new way, as one of us, starting off as we all do as a helpless baby dependent on parents and caretakers for everything. My eyes rested on Linda who has seven children, five still at home with herself and her husband, Joe, father of the 13 year old twins, her last children. A few weeks ago both Linda and Joe were hospitalized at the same time in different hospitals with life threatening illness. Both are recovering now, thank God and much prayer and family and church support. Linda has been battling life altering illness for the last several months, being hospitalized again and again. And yet her one focus is her family, making sure they are housed and well and doing well at school and work and coming to church. One way or the other they never miss a Sunday of worship.

And my eyes rested on Grandma Harmon, Linda’s mother who has faithfully brought over 23 of the grandchildren to church with her ranging in age from 2 to 22.  Linda’s brother’s children rest their heads on Grandma’s lap and her sister’s children sit on the laps of their older cousins in our crowded space.  I looked at them gently in my homily about God’s love manifest in human form on Christmas and said that they are like the holy family of the baby and child Jesus, loving one another and leading one another to God and God’s house, no matter what. I said that even as I baptized Mrs. Harmon and Linda, they also led many members of the family to baptism and worshiping our loving God here with us.  I looked at 13 year old Elizabeth whose parents do not come but who brings her two little brothers regularly. I said that even as Jesus liked to go to the Temple, his church, her love of coming here and bringing her brothers tells who she is , a child of God.  I smiled at Pearl and Dr. Joe Cudjoe whose daughters were raised in the church and are now studying medicine. Efe Jane, their younger daughter joined her mother in leading our youth and children in the Sunday School for several years. My eyes moved to Lili, an Italian immigrant who works so hard to house and care for her family. Her 14 year old daughter ,Marcella, sat next to her,  participating in the holy Mass. (We also baptized Marcella and her older sister Maria). I said they are another holy family, and so is everyone here as we are all parts of families and if we do not have our blood family present we do have our spiritual family, this church. The church is a holy family. We are all ages, races, languages, colors and states of being but we are God’s family. There were many “Amens.” During our prayer, Our church Elder, Mr. Gary who was homeless and estranged from his family when we met him, thanked God for his family (that he now leads to Christ) and for his home.  He prayed for all those who are homeless and feel alone that they may find a home inside and especially a home with God, and with us as a church family. We joined in prayer that all children may have loving families,biological, foster, other mother,adoptive and church families.

Today, I read the texts for this Sunday- in the First Samuel 1 reading Hannah and Elkanah are thankful for the unexpected birth of their first son in their older years, Samuel. Hannah says to God “I asked YHWH for this boy and God granted my request. Now I give him to YHWH, for his entire life is given to YHWH (Verses 27-28 TIB).” I am so thankful for the parents who like Hannah and Elkanah and Mary and Joseph and Linda and Jolinda Harmon, and Pearl and Joe Cudjoe and all of the others who have dedicated their children to God. It was my grandmother Ella and my mother, Anne, who did this for me early in life.  In today’s Gospel reading Luke 2:41-52 we read of the time Jesus stayed behind in the Temple when he was 12, after the Passover Feast in Jerusalem-to be about his Parent, God’s, ( in Aramaic,Abwoon’s -Birther God’s)  business. And we also remember when Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus to God as their firstborn son in Jewish custom, and the joy of the prophetess Anna and elderly Simeon at seeing the “light of the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2: 20-39)”. And now we too are all God’s children: (I John 3:1-2;21-24) “See what Love Abba God has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children! Yet,that in fact is what we are!”

Let us rejoice this day that we are part of the holy Family of God! Amen.

rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

http://www.goodshepmin.org

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Our  Good Shepherd Church Family

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And now we present Pope Francis Homily on the Holy Family:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday morning – the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Jubilee for Families in the context of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy currently underway in Rome and around the world. Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks, including his extemporaneous additions

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

27 December 2015

The biblical readings which we just heard presented us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the house of God.  Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple of Shiloh and consecrate him to the Lord (cf. 1 Sam1:20-22, 24-28).  In the same way, Joseph and Mary, in the company of Jesus, go as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (cf. Lk 2:41-52).

We often see pilgrims journeying to shrines and places dear to popular piety.  These days, many of them are making their way to the Holy Door opened in all the cathedrals of the world and in many shrines.  But the most beautiful thing which emerges from the word of God today is that the whole family goes on pilgrimage.  Fathers, mothers and children together go to the house of the Lord, in order to sanctify the holy day with prayer.  It is an important teaching, which is meant for our own families as well. Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.

For example, how comforting it is for us to reflect on Mary and Josephteaching Jesus how to pray!  This is a sort of pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of education in prayer. And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly.  Certainly, during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they prayed by singing the Psalm: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’  Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem (122:1-2).

How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation.  And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer.  What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross, as they did on the day of their baptism?  Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children?  To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that he can be their protection and support throughout the day.  In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need.   These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.

At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51).  This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families.  A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, butwhen we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience.  We know what Jesus did on that occasion.  Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him.  For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents.  The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it.  Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt.  Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience.  Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.

In the Year of Mercy, every Christian family can become a privileged place on this pilgrimage for experiencing the joy of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them.  How miserable we would be if God did not forgive us! Within the family we learn how to forgive, because we are certain that we are understood and supported, whatever the mistakes we make.

Let us not lose confidence in the family!  It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing.  Where there is love, there is also understanding and forgiveness.  To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission – the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life – which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.

 

Amen!

And here is a special homily for this day from New Ways Ministries, Bondings 2.0 

What Makes the Holy Family–And Our Families–Holy?

Today’s blog post for the Feast of the Holy Family is a reflection on Luke 2:41-52. The reflection is written by Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, leaders of Drachma Parents’ Group, an organization for Catholic parents of LGBT children in the island nation of Malta (a more complete bio of the Peregins can be found at the end of this post).

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

In today’s Gospel, we are reminded that the Holy Family, too, experienced moments of frustration and anxiety similar to that of many parents these days.  Mary and Joseph must have felt let down by their family’s communication breakdown and possibly considered themselves, failures as parents.

They were travelling for one full day when they realised Jesus was not with them. And it took them three days to return and find him. It probably took them this long because they had been looking in all the wrong places before.  But in the end, they found him – in what was probably the least likely place they expected. The parents were stunned to find out their twelve-year-old son was not in some dire situation as they may have imagined: distressed, panicking, or severely sick. Instead, he was found quizzing the teachers in the temple, totally engrossed and fully absorbed in his quest to learn.

Jesus’ choice to stay in Jerusalem, seemingly indifferent to the family’s plan to head back home to Nazareth, may have stirred a relationship power struggle, quite similar to the ones that families experience today. The dynamics in the Holy Family seem very familiar to our own, so what is it that makes this family holy?

They are holy primarily because of the way in which they faced this challenging occasion. It was a moment for them to understand that parents must give up their own expectations and allow necessary space for their children to live out their own roles and fulfil their own life calling.  This gospel story is more about Jesus’ role and place in society, and not about their own hopes and plans.  Mary and Joseph probably touched the pain parents feel when they think they are being side-lined, made redundant, and feel out of touch with the reality of their children. This was their first leap in parenthood.

Jesus digs the wound even deeper: ‘Why were you looking for me?’ as if to say that if they knew him at all, it was obvious where he would be. Was it not yet clear to them that he should be in his Father’s house?  Have they been so blind to all his attempts to talk to them about his life purpose?  Although they may have felt worried and hurt over those four or more days travelling, in the end, they knew it was not all about them.  It was rather about Jesus and his well-being. This was their second leap in parenthood.

It is similar to the anxiety felt when teenage LGBT sons or daughters ‘come out’ to their parents.  Many parents still see this announcement as their child causing them anxiety, rather than their child showing trust – which is a gift. Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was all about, and sometimes we parents don’t understand what being LGBT is all about. As parents we are sometimes astonished and bewildered.  We too would not have seen it coming.  We too may have ‘looked everywhere’ except in ‘the proper place’ and this leaves us feeling like failures. But the Holy Family assures us that this is all part of the process – all part of the journey to holiness!

In the silence of their hearts, during that dramatic moment, Mary and Joseph must have recognised they did not have all the answers any more.  Their son needed to find things out for himself. The holiness is, therefore, in their humility to backtrack–to go to that place where Jesus was and to meet him there. To acknowledge Jesus’ life calling, perhaps different from theirs.

So during their second attempt to return to Nazareth, they probably stuck closer together and used this crucial time to iron out any of their differences, hurts, and conflicts. They probably shared their own pains and dreams. This second journey must have united this family more significantly. Jesus was obedient and advanced in wisdom, age and favour. He knew he was loved unconditionally and felt supported by his parents. They did not walk ahead or he lag behind. Instead, they walked together aware of their unique purpose and holy path.

This story may uncover the secret to our own families’ journeys to holiness: to accompany one  another.

–Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, Drachma Parents’ Group

joseanne & joe

Joseph & Joseanne Peregin have been married for over 30 years and have two sons and a daughter, all in their 20s. They have been active leaders in the Christian Life Community (CLC) of Malta for over 35 years. CLC is an international lay association inspired by Ignatian spirituality, integrating contemplation and action in a spirit of discernment. They are among the co-founders of the Drachma Parents’ Group (est.2008) which is a support group for parents of LGBT people in Malta.  They are members of the newly founded Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, for which Joseanne serves on the steering committee.

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