Homily – December 26, 2021

Feast of the Holy Family
Year C

The father lost his job, and they moved to the city to find work. They couldn’t afford to buy their own house, so they lived in the basement of someone else’s house, paying a large rent for the tiny space. It was not the most comfortable situation – mom, dad, and five children cramped into a moldy basement. But they made the best of it by pouring as much love as they could into the little things. They kept the place neat and clean. They had their small and sparse meals together every day. They said their prayers each morning and evening as a family. And whenever they could, they even pitched in to help other families who were in even more difficult situations.

One day, one of the children’s teachers came by to visit the family. She was shocked at the cramped quarters and the poverty in which the family was forced to live. The next day at school the teacher took the little girl aside and tried to comfort her. She said, “I am so sorry that you don’t even have a home to live in!” But the little girl was surprised and answered, “Oh no! We have a wonderful home; we’re just still looking for a house to put it in!” They loved one another – they served one another … and that created a bond of communion within their home…

This is exactly the teaching of St. Paul. Our modern mindset can be easily dismissive him … we tend to focus on the one phrase – “be subordinate” – without taking in the entire passage and its proper meaning. But St. Paul seeks to emphasize a strong mutual love between husband and wife, parents, and children. He sees marriage taking on a new meaning in imitation of Jesus Christ and His love for those for whom He gave up His life… Christ came to serve not to be served … the family bond then is meant to be a means of service to one another. It is not that any one of the members of a family are ‘under rank’ – subordinate – no St. Paul is saying that families – husbands, wives, children – are meant to serve as Christ did … to lay down our lives for one another… Thus, family life, in this sense, is a bond of love. In this way, being “under rank” is a willingness to serve out of reverence for Christ …

You see modern society completely misses the wisdom embedded in this teaching. The world seeks to breakdown family life, teaches us to be self-serving – be what you want, do what you want, get what you … what a hedonistic, narcissistic world in which we live… The question that must be asked is this: who are we serving? That is at the heart of Paul’s teaching, it is at the heart of the Christian message … Jesus came to serve not to be served! And where is there found a better place to learn what it means to be self-less and self-giving than in family life? For the family is a “domestic church” a microcosm of the whole … Family teaches us something about the bond of communion we are meant to have with God … as such, our lives within our homes and families are meant to mirror that which we receive here, in this place … the very gift of God’s love.

This isn’t to say that every family is perfect, and some don’t have family … the loss of loved ones, the breakdown of marriages, and so on all make up the world of humanity and human sin. Nevertheless, we are meant to serve one another, to bring about a greater bond of communion – with each other and with God. Is not an attitude of service to one another – is it not a gift to God, does it not build a character of virtue? For this is at the heart of what it means to love – to confer goodness on others … Doesn’t that make us a little more God-like in heart, mind, body and soul… in word and in deed?

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