Family is the First Church

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And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Today, we celebrate the fact that God took flesh and lived within a human family. In today’s Gospel passage, Joseph, acting on information received in a dream woke Mary at night and in obedience, she picked up the baby and a few of their belongings and they fled to Egypt. There is no such thing as a perfect family; there is no family without its own challenges and difficulties.

So, the question is: How do we make our families like that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph regardless of our challenges? In other words, what are the secrets of the Holy Family?

*1. Respect for Parents.*
When we honour (respect and obey) our parents and make them happy, there are several blessings we receive. _a. Forgiveness of Sins:_ “Whoever honours his father atones for sins.” (Sirach 3:3) “For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins, it will be credited to you… as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.” (Sirach 3:14-15) _b. Riches and Prosperity in Life:_ “Whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. (Sirach 3:4) _c. Fruit of the Womb:_ “Whoever honours his father will be gladdened by his own children. (Sirach 3:5) _d. Answers to Prayers:_ “When he prays he will be heard. (Sirach 3:5) _e. Long Life:_ “Whoever glorifies his father will have a long life.” (Sirach 3:6)

*2. Cherish Parents when they are old.*
Old age ordinarily is a blessing, we all pray to live old. But how we enjoy old age depends on our children, if they abandon us, old age becomes hard. Don’t grieve your parents when they are old as Sirach says: “O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him.” (Sirach 3:12-13)

*3. Fear of God.*
When you fear God, this is what will happen in your family: “You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” (Psalm 128:2-3).

*4. Forgive One Another.*
Without forgiveness, there cannot be a holy family. Recall how Jesus stayed behind in the temple at age twelve, causing Mary and Joseph so much grief and extra stress in making the two-day journey to search for him? It is true that the Bible says “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13) It is also true that sometimes forgiveness works more magic than the rod.

Forgiveness also applies to husbands and wives. It is not possible that husband and wife will not offend each other. If your love is to last, you must forgive one another repeatedly; seventy-seven times seven times. As St. Paul says: “Forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Achieving a Holy Family is not a matter of luck, it is hard work. Everyone has a role to play. A family that prays together stays together. Pray as if everything depends on God but work as if everything depends on you.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, sanctify our families, repair broken homes, bring us joy and peace, heal our wounds and help us to love one another as you have loved us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bible Study: Eccles. 3:2-6,12-14, Ps. 128:1-5, Matthew 2:13-15,19-23)*

© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu


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