Feast Of The Holy Family – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“A Family Listens To The Word With Attention”.
The readings of today give us much useful advice on how to be a happy family. In proclaiming the message of the ‘Word’ one could begin by presenting the example of the Holy Family, which, as said in the Gospel, had to face many difficulties, but always remained together and allowed itself be led by the word of God to always to carry out his will.
The first reading reminds us about the duties and responsibilities of parents to their children and children towards their parents.
The second reading suggests that love must always be present in all our family relationships. Love is the infallible bond.
The Gospel reading used to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family is in a sense a frightening story about a family in crises. Fleeing their homeland for fear of death squads murdering children does not sound like a placid family portrait scene. They were not a family living a perfect existence. They were a real family who faced difficult challenges and suffering in their lives.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden. In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 3:2-6, 12-14.
The Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) is an Old Testament book containing many useful suggestions and good advice for all situations in life. At the time of Jesus, teachers used the book of Sirach in schools to instruct pupils. The early Christians themselves held it in high esteem, holding it second only to the Book of Psalms as the most popular reading in the Old Testament. We must not apply the advice we read literally since after two thousand years the world has changed and some educational methods are definitely outmoded. The text we have today in the first reading, deals with how children should behave towards their parents and their duties can be simply summarized as: to “honour them”.
The first reading begins with these words: “The Lord honours a father above his children, and he confirms a mother’s right over her children. Those who honour their father atone for sins, and those who respect their mother are like those who lay up treasure.” These and the other words of this reading remind us that parents are to be given love, respect and obedience, even when old age overtakes them and there may be no one to care for them except their offspring. You may have noticed how the reading concentrates on the obligations of children towards their parents. We almost gather the impression that parents are free to behave as they like, whereas children are obliged to assist them. We may then question ourselves; should parents show aggressiveness, disrespect and a lack of love for each other and then command the obedience and the respect of their children? We know very well that such things do happen even within Christian families.
We must however remember that we cannot set pre-conditions for loving others. We should not love a person because he or she is good; instead we may make that person good by loving them. If this is true for everybody, then it is much more so in the case of parents. Loving our parents does not mean letting them do what they like; we must instead endeavour to understand them and through our love and appreciation help them to be happy. Children misbehave at times and can be seriously naughty, but parents do not abandon them just for this; they keep on persevering, hoping and working towards an improvement. When there are habits and behaviours that cannot be changed, the only thing left to do is to pray, to love and to be patient.
The Psalm is a blessing pronounced on pilgrims visiting the Holy City (Dt. 16:16). Its theology is simple; piety will be rewarded by abundance of family and possessions. It concentrates more unambiguously on the advantages of family life. We notice, though, that it starts with God; ‘happy are all those who fear YHWH and who walk in his ways.’
In the second reading Paul speaks of the many virtues to be practiced by God’s people, and encourages husbands and wives to lovingly submit to one another. In regard to their children, he says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.” He reflects on the consequences for Christian life and of what God has done for us in Christ. For the vices that marked pagan society, we are to substitute the virtues that reflect the values of Christ and his teachings, especially love. For our liturgy, we are to make the whole of our life and activity impart of our worship of God through Christ. For guidance in our family life, we should seek inspiration from Jewish sources such as Ecclesiasticus.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.
Herod had ordered the killing of all the children in Bethlehem. In the Gospel, Matthew tells of the Holy Family’s escape from Herod through the flight into Egypt. When Herod had died, the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead”.
Matthew wants to show Jesus as the new Moses. A second important teaching of today’s Gospel is linked to the quotation of Hosea’s prophecy: “I called my son out of Egypt”. The prophet probably means the ‘people of Israel’, which in the Bible is called “my first-born son” (Ex 4:22). The Israelites were called to out of Egypt and to move towards the Promised Land.
By applying this saying to Jesus; ‘Matthew wants to tell us from the very beginning of his Gospel that Jesus will repeat the experience of Israel. Just as Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land, so now Jesus, coming into our slavery through his incarnation, leads us out of our ‘sinful, captive state’ into true and full liberty into the loving arms of God’.
What can the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus teach our communities and families? These three people had to face severe difficulties and problems, which often throw our communities and families into a state of crisis and even breakdown. The Holy Family found in the difficulties it had to face, the very stimulus to stay together and to dialogue. This is what should happen in every Christian community, where all are to serve those in need or in any kind of danger.
The family is the greatest school of interpersonal relationships. In the family we learn to love, trust, to share and to respect each other. We become aware of the rights of each other, how to handle conflicts, forgiveness and fidelity. We learn to be always thankful and not to take each other for granted.
We must let the message of Christ in all its richness ‘find a home in us’. The Christian family is the cradle of faith, handing on the Christian story, teaching the basic prayers, linking up with the local parish and celebrating the liturgical year’s seasons and festivals.
Parents and all of us in the family become older as each year passes by. There can be many limitations that come with old age, but not all at once. Some are debilitating, others just annoying; some are amusing; some try the patience of those in the family. We will all experience ‘senior moments’ at some stage in our lives. However age, often brings with it real strengths such as ‘hard earned’ experience. The elderly are usually wiser; thanks to their experience and the larger perspective they bring to resolving problems and conflicts.
The older we get, the more we begin to appreciate what our parents did for us. Now we get a chance to pay them back. Here are special words of advice: Don’t wait too long! When they gone, there will be things you wish you had done for them and with them!
In the family we learn to love, trust, sharing respect for others, develop an awareness of the rights of others, how to handle conflicts, fidelity and how to forgive. The Family is the Cradle of “Faith and Love”
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
Feast of the Holy Family Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Our parents are given to us by God and Christian parents should represent the values of what God stands for. Offering reverence and obedience to our parents brings the same rewards as offering reverence and obedience to God. Mon. … The second part of the first reading reminds us that we must not be unkind to our parents especially in their old age and never neglect them even if they are feeble in body and mind. Most of us would not have neglected our parents; but have we taken them for granted? Tue. … Our basic attitudes towards God and our fellow human beings are instilled in us by our parents. Our religious faith and our prayer life, our work habits and our priorities depend to a great extent on what our parents taught us and more so by their examples. God calls us to acknowledge their unconditional love. Wed. … Parents are channels of God’s providence for their children, so also are children channels of God’s providence for their parents. Generous and thoughtful children are among God’s basic rewards to good parents. Have we set the right example as caregivers regarding God’s providence in the family for our children to pass on to future generations? Thur. … Paul tells what God has done for us in Christ. We are to substitute the ‘vices’ that marked pagan society with the ‘virtues’ that reflect the values of Christ especially love. Unconditional love must form the basis of all our family relationships. Unconditional love forms the basis of our relationship with God. Frid. … In the family we learn to love, trust, share with and respect others. We become aware of the rights of others, how to handle conflict, the healing power of love and forgiveness and the importance of fidelity. We learn to be always thankful and not to take each other for granted. The family is the cradle of faith, handing on the Christian story. Sat. … The Holy Family’s example for us must be their attentiveness to God’s Word and will. They were not a model family living a perfect existence. They were a real family who faced real challenges and suffering in their lives, and from the start, they were always ready to follow the will of their Lord no matter what the sacrifice might be.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, may we always strive to play a meaningful role in promoting the values that the Holy Family had in our own lives. Through the values of the Holy Family, prayer and Your Gospel and our unconditional love for each other, may we became part of ‘Your Family’ .
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.