Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph Sunday (Dec 27) L-20
(Gen 15:1-6, 21:1-3; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19); Lk 2:22-40) (Year A readings also may be used)
Introduction: On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading (Gen 15:1-6, 21: 1-3) Today we hear God’s promise (Chapter 15), of numerous descendants to Abraham whom Judaism, Christianity, Islam consider their father, and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to Isaac.
In the second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author further shows us the trusting faith of Abraham in the promises of God, first, in Abraham’s willingness to move his whole family to an unknown place to which God said He would lead him; second, in the way Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s power to give them a son born to them in their very old age and third, in the way Abraham’s unwavering Faith in his God enabled him to obey, without hesitation, his God’s order to sacrifice his only son.
Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted here are also found on February 2nd, the Feast of Presentation of Jesus.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that Jesus might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.
2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”
3) Marriage is a sacrament of holiness. Each family is called to holiness. By the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage), Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the power of God by prayer.
DEC 27, 2020: THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY & JOSEPH
Three Homily-starter anecdotes:
#1: Grandparents are a treasure: Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would drop food on the dining table, drop and break bowls, and smear food all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table, a wooden bowl and spoon and set it off to the side of the dining room so the grandfather could eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad. When you get old like Grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” (In the American version of the story, the boy was making a wooden bowl). After that day, the grandfather was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 84rd birthday on December 17, 2020. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 2: Cancer, heart disease and family relationship: A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise, and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: Dying of loneliness: In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. This feast reminds us that we are part of a human family and at the same time we belong to God’s family, the Church. In both these families, we have privileges and responsibilities. In both, we work out our salvation together — as women, men, and children living and working in love and peace. Hence let us try our best to make life pleasant for other members in our family, and let us begin again today.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading (Gen 15:1-6, 21: 1-3): Today we hear God’s promise of numerous descendants to Abraham (chapter 15) whom Judaism, Christianity, Islam consider their father, and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife , Sarah, gave birth to Isaac. In the second reading, from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author further shows us the trusting Faith of Abraham in the promises of God, first, in Abraham’s willingness to move his whole family to an unknown place to which God said He would lead him; second, in the way Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s power to give them a son born to them in their very old age and third, in the way Abraham’s unwavering Faith in his God enabled him to obey, without hesitation, his God’s order to sacrifice his only son. Today’s Gospel [Year B: Lk 2:22-40] presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. These events are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus, a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22), to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), and the Feast of Encounter because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna.
Year B– I reading, Genesis 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3 explained: Here, we hear God’s promise (Chapter 15), of numerous descendants to Abraham and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to Isaac. This reading has messages about the reliability and timing of God’s promises and lessons about prayer. God’s word appears to Abram in a vision, reminiscent of the way that the prophets both hear and see God’s message (cf. Amos 1:1). The first thing Abram is told is not to fear and continues by telling Abram that God will be his shield. God also tells Abram that Abram’s reward (literally, his “wages” or “pay”) will be exceedingly great. Abraham asks a question that essentially amounts to, “What is my reward?” Abram holds God responsible for his lack of an heir: “Look, you have not given children to me” (literally, “seed”). God’s response is direct and reassuring: “This man (Abraham’s manager) will not be your heir, but rather one who will come from your body (Hebrew: ‘loins’) will be your heir.” Thus, God reiterates that Abram will have descendants and specifies that those descendants will be biological. In verse 5, God adds a visual to the promise. Abram is told to look to the night stars and count them if he is able, that his descendants will be that numerous. The final verse of this selection contains Abram’s response: he believed in the Lord. However, the heart of this interaction is faith and trust. If Abram understands God to be righteous, to be one whose word is firm and secure, to be one who will make good on God’s promises, then Abram can believe. The story of the birth of Isaac brings a key aspect of the Abraham narrative to a climax. The promised son is, finally, born. Interestingly, only Sarah speaks in response (21:6-7). Sarah testifies to her faith in the God who has made this birth possible despite seemingly impossible odds (21:6-7).
Year B Second reading, Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 explained: Abraham, “our father in faith”, is the greatest example, in the Old Testament,of faith in God (cf. Gen 12:1-4; Rom 4:1ff; Gal 3:6-9; Heb 6:13ff). Putting all his trust in the divine word, Abraham gave up all the security and comfort of his native land in Ur of the Chaldeans, to set out for a distant and unknown place, the land of Canaan, which God had promised to give his descendants. ” 11-12. Sarah, like Abraham, was very elderly when God announced that she was going to have a child. At first she was puzzled and even sarcastically skeptical (cf. Gen 18:9f), but soon her attitude changed into a faith which God rewarded by her conceiving Isaac. The faith of Sarah and her husband can be said to exceed that of the earlier patriarchs because what God promised could come true only by means of a miracle, since Abraham, like his wife, was old and incapable of begetting children. The conception of Isaac is also a “type” of that of Christ. “All the miraculous con-ceptions which occurred in the Old Testament were prefigurements of the grea-test of all miracles, the Incarnation of the Word. It was fitting that his birth froma Virgin should be prefigured by other births so as to prepare people’s minds forfaith. But there is this difference: God miraculously enabled Sarah to conceive bymeans of human seed, whereas the blessed Virgin conceived without it” (St. Tho-mas Aquinas, “Commentary on Heb.”, 11, 3). 17-19. It is very difficult for us to imagine what Abraham thought when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the promise, his only son, in the mountains ofMoriah (cf. Gen 22:2). Paul’s epistles generally Abraham’s faith is proposed as an example (cf. Gal 3:7;Rom 4:3, 11-12; 4:17-22); but that was in the context of his faith in God’s promisethat he would have a multitude of descendants. Here, however, the Patriarch’sfaith is to be seen in the way he approaches a commandment which seems tonegate that promise: how could God possibly ask him to sacrifice his only son?The answer lies in the fact that God knew that Abraham had faith in his ability tobring the dead back to life. Abraham’s obedience to God in this episode is the most striking proof of his faith. “God tested Abraham’s faith to prove to himself the Patriarch’s virtue; he did it to show the world how excellent Abraham was. we know, moreover, that precisely on account of Abraham’s generosity and faith, God renewed his promise to him, now ratifying it with an oath (cf. Gen 22:16; Heb 6:13-18). (From Navarre Bible Commentary).
Cycle A readings explained: Rights and duties of parents and children: Although more emphasis is given in the first two readings [Year A: Sirach 3:2-6; Colossians 3:12-21] to the obligations of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old saying, and very often true. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God and their country, the children, in turn, will be more likely to carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman.
Biblical advice for parents and children: Many people honor their mothers on Mother’s Day and their fathers on the Father’s Day by taking them to expensive restaurants for dinner or by sending them valuable gifts. God has not commanded us to keep a day for our mothers or fathers but has rather given us a commandment to guide us in our relationship with our parents. It is the fourth commandment in the Catholic Catechism or the fifth commandment in the Hebrew Bible, given in the book of Exodus: “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex 20:12). St. Paul explains this commandment in his letter to the Ephesians:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),  that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.  And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:1-4). “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord,” Paul says in Col 3:20 and in his letter to the Romans, he reminds us, “the authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1). Thus, we obey our parents not because they are the wisest and the fairest and the strongest and the paragons of all virtues, but because they are the parents God has given us, and the command to obey is His.
Gospel [Year A: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23] exegesis: The old Moses and the new Moses. Matthew’s Gospel makes sixteen references to fulfilled prophecy (1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 24:15; 26:54, 56 and 27:9), more than twice the number in the other three Gospels combined. The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt is one of them. Presenting Jesus as another Moses, Matthew gives a number of parallels between the two. Today’s Gospel lesson includes several: i) The murder of baby boys by Herod parallels the murder of baby boys by Pharaoh (Ex 1:15-22). ii) Jesus’ flight to Egypt to escape Herod parallels Moses’ being hidden in the bulrushes to escape the Pharaoh who schemed to murder infant Jewish boys in order to lessen Jewish power and the danger of a Jewish takeover (Ex 1 – 2:10). It also parallels Moses’ flight to Midian to escape prosecution for murdering an Egyptian who was abusing a Jew (Ex 2:11-22). iii) Jesus’ return to Israel parallels Moses’ elevation to Pharaoh’s palace as an infant (2:1-10) and his return from exile after the death of the king of Egypt (Ex 3-4). iv) The angel’s assurance“…for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead” (Mt 2:20) parallels, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead” (Ex 4:19). But unlike His response in the Exodus account, God does not kill Herod or his soldiers. Instead, Herod kills the infants and other men will, in a few years, kill Jesus. In the Old Testament, God led by power whereas in the New Testament, God leads by vulnerability.
The O.T Joseph and the N.T. Joseph. The flight into Egypt also echoes the story of the earlier Joseph, whose going into Egypt laid the foundation for the birth of the Israelite nation and the Exodus (Gn 37-50). That first Joseph was a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. God also appears to this new Joseph in dreams (1:20; 2:13, 19, 22). The places cited in this lesson are equally important. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. His journey to Egypt is like that of Jacob’s family, who went to Egypt to escape famine. Jesus is driven to Egypt by a famine of justice. It was not unusual for Israelites to seek refuge in Egypt when life became difficult elsewhere, and Egypt had a substantial Jewish population. Joseph and his family would not have had to live in isolation. The events of this lesson show how Jesus happened to grow up in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem. In Galilee, he would grow up rubbing shoulders with Gentiles, which is appropriate to a Gospel that concludes with a mission to “all nations” (Mt 28:19). Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. The angel, who had been silent for some period of time, put God’s plan back in motion. As noted above, the angel’s words echo God’s call to Moses (Ex 4:19). Joseph obeyed without complaint or comment.
Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, is presented as a man of unwavering obedience, eager to consult God in fervent prayer and to learn His will through “dreams”. Joseph obeys without complaint, and his prompt obedience is crucial to God’s plan. He knows nothing except the next step of the journey, but he takes that step. So also is our obedience crucial to God’s plan. We cannot see the fullness of God’s plan for our lives or our families any better than Joseph could see it for his life, but we can be assured that our faithfulness will also lead, one step at a time, to great things.
The Massacre and Rachel’s tears. There is no record of Herod’s massacre of children other than the account by Matthew, but the story is fully in keeping with Herod’s murderous ways. He killed anyone he thought to be a rival, including his mother-in-law and three of his sons. There is no reason to believe that this massacre of babies did not occur. Bethlehem was not a large city, so the male infants under two years of age would have been few. In a tyrannical time and place, the incident could escape notice except by those directly affected. Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15, which portrayed the grief of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, at the fate of her people as they were later led into captivity to Babylon. Rachel was dead, of course, and was reputed to be buried at Ramah or perhaps in Bethlehem, both on the route to Babylon.
Influence of the Holy Family on Jesus: We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations. We know that Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. Both Mary and Joseph were accustomed to receiving the guidance of Heaven’s messengers. From Jesus’ adulthood, we can also glimpse the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews (Mk 12:29-30). He prayed spontaneously. He took time to pray alone. Yet, He also prayed with His friends. Jesus fasted and marked the holy days. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth. We know that work was important to Jesus’ family. In adulthood, Jesus was called not just “Joseph’s son,” but “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was skilled in a trade that was highly regarded in his day, and he trained Jesus in the same craft. We can conclude from Jesus’ preaching that Mary was industrious and frugal in keeping a house. It was likely from her example that Jesus drew many of His favorite stories: a woman finding just the right cloth to patch a piece of clothing, a woman working leaven into the flour, making dough for the next morning’s baking, a widow searching her house for a lost coin. Hard work, struggling to pay the bills, taking long road trips, praying simple devotions — all of this we learn from the real Gospels. (mikeaquilina.com).
Life Messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2223) gives the following advice to the parents: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).
2) Marriage: a sacrament of holiness. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of Holy Orders (priesthood), and the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage). Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of Matrimony, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual respect. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after they have grown up and left home.
3) Make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented in TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.
4) Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today in the streets of big cities, fighting the cold and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty, and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.
5) Both parents and children need to grant forgiveness and ask for forgiveness. If you had parents who were abusive, parents who mistreated you or manipulated you, you probably have a lot of hurt today when we talk about parents. God knows about that hurt; God cares about that hurt, and God understands why you hurt. As in all relationships, in the parent-child relationship too there needs to be love, repentance, and forgiveness on both sides. Both the parent and the child should be able to say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive me.” And, both the parent and the child should be able to say, “You are forgiven.”
On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “Children are a gift from God to you.” Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all your families in the New Year.
Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to imitate the Holy Family: (http://karlaschultz.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/how-to-imitate-the-holy-family/)
1. We can hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. At least it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.
2. We need to cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope St. Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking. With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel. We need to do what it takes to bring silence home. We can move the TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of our household, and we can turn the set off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce family stress levels.
4. We need to make our home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes from a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’” Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many Catholics, who decry the lack of reverence in their Parish Church, then go home to desecrate their domestic churches — by harsh words toward their kids or their spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests! Remember: “They Will Know We Are Christians” — not just by the Nativity scene in our front yard, but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.
5. We need to make our home a place of prayer. Our day shouldn’t be dominated by devotions, but we should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done. There are many ways to pray as a family, and we should seek the ways that work best for our tribe. We can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. We could, at least, be saying grace at every meal. We can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. If we begin with something small and manageable, we can, in time, time to grow into it.
JOKES OF THE WEEK
1) Shrewd girl: One day, a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a while, and said, “Momma, how come that grandma’s head is full of white hair?”
2) Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation! (Robert Orben).
3) Sue your parents! In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.
4) Long Training: A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest. She would like to know what this would require. So, the priest begins to explain: “If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he’ll have to study for eight years. If he wants to become a Franciscan, he’ll have to study for ten years. If he wants to become a Jesuit, he’ll have to study for fourteen years.” [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.] The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. “Sign him up for that last one, Father — he’s a little slow!”
35– Additional anecdotes:
1) “If you bungle raising your children…” In a rare personal interview, granted not long before her death, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remarked: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do will matter very much” (Good Housekeeping, July, 1994). For a woman whose wealth, education, background, and connections could have assured her a prestigious career in academia, politics, or diplomacy, her statement may seem surprising. However, despite all the possibilities she could have pursued for herself, Mrs. Kennedy was convinced that family was ultimately the most important entity in her life; to her credit, she lived by that conviction. (Sanchez Files) Because family is the resting ground where values and virtues are inculcated and cultivated, healthy families are essential to the well-being of society. As anyone can attest, however, during the past quarter-century, a variety of factors have contributed to the progressive fragmentation, isolation and structural evolution of the family unit, e.g. (1) an ever-increasing rate of divorce (more than one million per year in the U.S.); (2) a steady rise in the number of single-parent householders; one-third of all school-aged children live with only one parent; (3) in more than 50% of all households, both parents must seek employment outside the home; (4) mobility: more than 20% of American families change their residence annually or more often. These factors are compounded by what Dr. William Bennet has described as a cultural disintegration. “We have ceased being clear about the standards we hold and the principles by which we judge. As a result, we have suffered a cultural breakdown of sorts, in areas like education, family life, crime and drug abuse, as well as in our attitudes toward sex, individual responsibility, civic duty and public services.” (The De-valuing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our Children, Summit Books: 1992). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “The Messiah is one of you.” The following fable offers a powerful example of the contagious grace of change. The membership of a once numerous order of monks had dwindled over the years, until there were only five brothers left in what had been a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of the learning and spiritual renewal they found there. Now, no one ever visited as the spirit of the place and its inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.
One day, however, a rabbi happened by to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how they could revitalize themselves and make their monastery a spiritual center once again. After a few moments, the rabbi replied, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.” Flabbergasted, the brothers replied, “The Messiah among us? Impossible!” As the weeks passed, the brothers puzzled over the rabbi’s startling revelation. If the Messiah were here, who would it be? Maybe, Brother Timothy . . . he’s the abbot and in his capacity as leader, he could surely be chosen to be the Messiah. It couldn’t be Bro. Mark; He’s always so argumentative, but, he’s usually right . . . Or maybe, it’s Bro. Pius who tends the garden and the animals. He could probably nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah. Surely, it could be Bro. Dominic; he’s studious, learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers. It couldn’t be Peter, could it? Certainly, the Messiah couldn’t be the one who cleaned toilets, dirty laundry and scrubbed the pots and pans each day. Or, could it? Since the monks were unable to determine which one of them was the Messiah, they began to treat one another as though each were the one. Moreover, just in case he himself might be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity. Within a few weeks, the monastery’s occasional visitors were awed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirituality they experienced. They returned again and again and brought new friends along. Soon, a few young men asked to be admitted to the order and the monastery thrived again. Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words, “the Messiah is one of you.” How much more might spouses love and cherish one another . . . how much more might parents value their children, protect them, teach them, and lovingly attend to their needs . . . how much more might children honor and appreciate their parents. If each member of every family were to reverence all the others as the Messiah, i.e., as Jesus who is our Savior and brother, how much might that strengthen and secure those familial bonds that are the infrastructure, without which our society has no future. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Daddy, could you please sell me one hour of your time?” A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says, “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies, “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him, “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s readings have a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family life. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday. All is forgiven.” In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, a Spanish newspaper carried a poignant story about a father and his son. It goes like this. A teen-aged boy, Paco, and his very wealthy father had a falling out and the young man ran away from home. The father was crushed. After a few days, he realized that the boy was serious, so the father set out to find him. He searched high and low for five months to no avail. Finally, in a last, desperate attempt to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, Meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. I love you. Signed, Your Father. On Tuesday, in the office of Hotel Montana, over 800 Pacos showed up, looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!! What a magnet that ad was. Over 800 Pacos!! The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we need more loving, forgiving fathers and mothers. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Don’t humiliate them! As a student, Daniel Webster (US Senator, noted 19th century American political orator) was particularly marked for being untidy. Finally, the teacher, in exasperation, told him that if he appeared again with such dirty hands, she would thrash him. He did appear in the same condition. “Daniel”, she said, “hold out your hand.” Daniel spat on his palm, with an intention to clean it, rubbed it on his trousers and held it out. The teacher surveyed it in disgust. “Daniel”, she said, “if you can find me another hand in this school that is dirtier than that, I will let you off.” Daniel promptly held out his other hand! –Many children with an eccentric trait blossom into geniuses. The teachers and parents should not underestimate them or humiliate them. (G. Francis Xavier in The World’s Best Inspiring Stories). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “Am I not a family valuable?” Rabbi Neil Kurshan in his book Raising Your Child to be a Mensch (a Yiddish word for a person having admirable characteristics such as fortitude and firmness of purpose), tells this real story: A young woman about to be married had come to the Rabbi for counseling. When she told the Rabbi that she hoped she would not make the same mistakes her parents had made, he pressed her to elaborate. The woman explained that each summer her wealthy parents traveled to Europe while she remained behind with a nanny. One year, when the girl was 11, the housekeeper suddenly quit just shortly before her parents’ annual trip to Europe. Upset that their vacation might be jeopardized, the parents quickly found a replacement. A few days before their departure, the girl noticed that her mother had wrapped the family jewels and silverware and placed them in the safe. Since this had never been done before, she asked why. Her mother explained that she could not trust the new housekeeper with the family valuables. Though certainly not intended, that insensitive remark so shocked and hurt the little girl that she never forgot it. Wasn’t she a family valuable? Didn’t she have more value than silver knives and silver forks? That is a question all of us could ask about our attitudes toward dependent family members, young, old or in-between, this Holy Family Day. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “I never hugged my dad”! In his book My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes a moving interview with Mark Chapman, the convicted slayer of Beatle John Lennon. At one point in the interview, Chapman says: “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me…I needed emotional love and support. I never got that.” Chapman’s description of how he would treat a son if he had one is especially tragic, because he will probably never get out of prison and have a family of his own. He says: “I would hug my son and kiss him…and just let him know…he could trust me and come to me…and (I would) tell him that I loved him.” Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and sons. It applies equally well to mothers and daughters. “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care. Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him. “Don’t wait until the deathbed to realize what you’ve missed.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “We are all equal in the eyes of God:” Former President Jimmy Carter recently decided to leave the Baptist Church to which he had belonged for sixty years. The reason was doctrinal disagreement. The Southern Baptist Convention had just codified that women are responsible for original sin and hence subservient to their husbands. President Carter disagreed. He said: “This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the Holy Scripture – that we are all equal in the eyes of God. … This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or Faith. Consequently, they are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many Faiths and led to some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant, and damaging examples of human-rights abuses.” So, Jimmy Carter’s conscience could no longer allow him to be part of his lifelong Church. The Feast of the Holy Family challenges the spouses to love and respect each other. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Grandfather’s wooden bowl: (American version of anecdote #1): A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “Have you ever seen a Saint praying?” St. Teresa of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila have their own stories about the influence their fathers had on their lives as role models. The Little Flower used to ask an innocent question of her first grader classmates: “Have you ever seen a Saint praying?” She would add: “If you haven’t, come to my house in the evening. You will see my dad on his knees in his room with outstretched arms, praying for us, his children, every day.” She states in one of her letters from the convent: “I have never seen or heard or experienced anything displeasing to Jesus in my family.” St. Teresa of Avila was admitted against her will, by her father, to a boarding house conducted by nuns in the final year of her high school studies, as soon as he detected bad books and yellow magazines hidden in her box. They were supplied by her spoiled friend and classmate, Beatrice. St. Teresa later wrote as the Mother Superior: “But for that daring and timely action of my father, I would have ended up in the streets, as a notorious woman.” The feast of the Holy Family challenges Christian fathers to be role models to their children. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “Those God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three.” (Jesse Jackson tells the story of a visit he made to the University of Southern Mississippi). While touring the campus with the university president, he saw a towering male student, six-feet, eight-inches tall, holding hands with a fidgety coed barely three-feet tall. What a contrast, six-feet, eight-inches tall and only three-feet tall. His curiosity piqued, Jackson watched as the young man, dressed in a warm-up suit, tenderly kissed the tiny coed, and sent her off to class. The president said that the student was a star basketball player. Both parents had passed away when he was a teenager, and he made a vow to look after his sister. Many scholarships came his way, but only Southern Mississippi offered one to his sister, too. Jackson went over to the basketball star, introduced himself, and said he appreciated the way he was looking out for his sister. The athlete shrugged and said, “Those of us who God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three.” (3) Don’t you wish every young person could have that kind of love for his or her siblings? We live lives of Faith and we look out for those we love. (Rev. Duncan). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) The morning after. A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after. It is to normalize our lives in our families that we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family and invite its holy members to our families. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “Scatter my ashes in the local Wal-Mart”: A single mother who raised her only child lavished her whole love on the girl, spending her health and wealth, time, and talents on the child’s upbringing. But the daughter dated and married a drug addict against her mother’s warnings and wishes. As a well-employed girl, she never cared to visit her mother. So on her deathbed the mother instructed her attorney to cremate her body and to scatter the ashes in the local Wal-Mart of the city where her daughter lived. He enquired why. The mother said: “Then I will be able to see my daughter visiting me every week!” Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) “Louis, this morning you met your real self.” Rabbi Gafni recalls one of the first bar mitzvahs he ever performed. (bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age ritual for Jewish boys. When a Jewish boy reaches 13 years old, he becomes accountable for his actions and becomes a bar mitzvah, a son of the Law). This bar mitzvah was for a boy named Louis. Louis was awkward and sad. His insensitive parents did little to encourage his self-esteem. They implied that he was too dumb to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah. Gafni was determined to bring out the best in Louis. He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers. He discovered that Louis was smart and had a fantastic singing voice. On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully. At the end of the ceremony, Rabbi Gafni stood and spoke directly to Louis. He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self. This is who you are. You are good, graceful, talented, and smart. Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing. Remember . . . this is you. Remember, and don’t ever lose it.” A few years later, Louis wrote to Rabbi Gafni. The boy whose parents predicted that he was too dumb to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree at an Ivy League university. He was also engaged to be married. Louis ended his letter by saying, “. . . I kept my promise—I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am. For this, I thank you.” [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 123-124.] I wish all of us could have an affirming adult like that in our lives. Some of you know about that kind of love. That was the kind of love you experienced from your parents. And you know how precious it is. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) “My mother told me that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.” A few years ago, Rabbi Marc Gafni gave a talk at a children’s camp in New York. At one point in the afternoon, Rabbi Gafni asked the children, “When was the last time someone told you that you were beautiful?” The children’s response devastated him. Few of them could recall true, encouraging words from their parents. So many of them heard only words of condemnation and shame. One young girl said, “My mother told me on Saturday that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.” Another boy related a heartbreaking conversation with his mother. He said, “My mother was in the Holocaust. And she says that if she had known that I would be her son, she wouldn’t have worked so hard to survive.” [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 120-121.] Parents like that need to stop and consider the impact of their words. It is hard to imagine a more hurtful thing to say to a child. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) 60 years of separation: The story of Boris and Anna Kozlov is very touching. Boris and Anna Kozlov were married in 1946. After three days Boris had to ship out with his Red Army unit. By the time he returned, Anna was gone, consigned by Stalin’s purges to internal exile in Siberia with the rest of her family. Nobody knew where the family was, or what had happened to Anna… Boris became frantic. He tried everything he could to find his young bride, but it was in vain. She was gone. After 60 years, one day, Anna Kozlov caught sight of the elderly man clambering out of a car in her home village of Borovlyanka in Siberia. There, in front of her, was Boris. An extraordinary coincidence had led them both to return to their home village on the very same day. 60 years of separation has made their reunion inexpressibly joyful. In today’s Gospel we heard Mathew’s account that Jesus’ family had to be separated from their kinsmen due to Herod’s decision to annihilate Jesus. (Fr. Bobby). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) “But…But…..you tell better lies Mum!”: A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart-to-heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars. “A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night. He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum,” replied the son, gravely, “But…But….you tell better lies Mum!” – Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say, ”Do as I tell and not as I do.” (G. Francis Xavier in Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) Attachment: In the middle of the night a young boy wakes up in a hospital bed. He feels very frightened and very alone. He is suffering intense pain: Burns cover forty percent of his body. Someone had doused him with alcohol and then had set him on fire. He starts crying out for his mother. The nurse leaves her night-post to comfort him; she holds him, hugs him, whispers to him that the pain will go away sooner than he thinks. However, nothing that the nurse does seems to lessen the boy’s pain. He still cries for his mother. And the nurse is confused and angry: it was his mother who set him on fire. The young boy’s pain at being separated from his mother – even though she had inflicted such cruelty on him – was greater than the pain of his burns. That deep attachment to the mother makes separation from her the worst experience a child can undergo. (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) The Cosby Show: One of TV’s highest rated program of all time was The Cosby Show. It was a weekly sitcom about an upper-middle-class black family, which for all practical purposes, had become America’s First Family. In a feature article about Bill Cosby, Newsweek magazine said that his show about the Huxtables is endearing not cutesy, its parents are hassled but never hapless and there is clowning but no guff. The Cosby Show was popular because the family situations it portrayed had an air of universality and reality about them. Any family could identify with both the irritations and misunderstandings that arise on the show, and with the truly humorous and heartwarming things that happen. While Dr. Cliff Huxtable, his lawyer- wife Clair and their four children may not be the perfect counterpart of the Holy Family, they do picture for us in modern terms what some of the qualities of family life should be. The seven ‘C’s of family life are: commitment, communication, compatibility, compassion, confession, conviviality, and children. They sum up today’s readings about how to become a holy family instead of a broken family. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) “We wanted to stay together…”: In his new book, All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel recalls the terrible moment when his family had to make a critical choice. The war was coming to an end, but the deportation of Jews continued. Elie, his parents and three sisters faced deportation from their village in Hungary to the concentration camp in Berkenau. Maria, a Christian and the family’s housekeeper, begged the Wiesels to hide in her family cabin in the mountains. At first the Wiesels declined, but Maria persisted. The family gathered at the kitchen table for a family meeting: should they go with Maria or stay and take their chances. The family decided to stay. Elie Wiesel remembers: “But why?” Maria implored us, her voice breaking. “Because” my father replied, “a Jew must never be separated from his community. What happens to everyone happens to us as well.” My mother wondered aloud whether it might not be better “to send the children with Maria.” We protested: “We’re young and strong. The trip won’t be as dangerous for us. If anyone should go with Maria, it’s you.” After a brief discussion, we thanked Maria. “My father was right. We wanted to stay together, like everyone else. Family unity is one of our most important traditions… the strength of the family tie, which has contributed to the survival of our people for centuries…” The war did not end soon enough for the Wiesels. Only Elie and two of his sisters survived. His mother, father, and youngest sister died in camps. (Quoted in Connections Newsletter). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Obedient Child Jesus: A few centuries before Christ, Alexander the Great conquered almost all the known world through military strength, intelligence, and diplomacy. Legend has it that one day Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly defended, walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice, demanding to see the city’s king. The king, approaching the battlements above the invading army, agreed to hear Alexander’s demands. ”Surrender to me immediately,” commanded Alexander. The king laughed. “Why should I surrender to you?” he called down. “We have you far outnumbered. You are no threat to us!” Alexander was ready to answer the challenge. “Allow me to demonstrate why you should surrender,” he replied. Alexander ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to rocks below. The king and his soldiers watched in shocked disbelief as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths. After ten soldiers had died, Alexander ordered the rest of his men to stop and to return to his side. The king and his soldiers surrendered on the spot to Alexander the Great. Even on a human level, obedience is powerful. But when the one we are obeying is God Himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, obedience is truly a life-changing virtue. It leads not just to temporary victories here on earth, but to the everlasting victory of the Resurrection, as Jesus himself proved by his obedience unto death on a cross. (Adapted from Hot Illustrations; E- Priest) Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) Child Jesus guided by Mary & Joseph: On October 14, 1943, Jewish slave laborers in Sobibor concentration camp, on the border of Poland and Russia, executed a well-planned revolt. Of the 700 prisoners who took part in the escape, 300 made it through the minefield between the barbed wire fence of the prison and the dense forest beyond. Of those, fewer than 100 are known to have survived the Nazi search parties. One of them, Thomas Blatt, was 15 years old when his family was herded into Sobibor. His parents were executed in the gas chamber, but Thomas, young and healthy, was sent to slave labor. Thomas and two companions made it out and started their long journey through the dense woods after navigating the minefield. At daybreak they buried themselves in the woods to sleep. At night they made their way through the trees and thick brush. After four nights of wandering through the cold forest, they saw a building silhouetted against the dark sky in the distance. With smiles on their faces, they eagerly approached it, hoping for sanctuary from their enemies. As they got closer, they noticed that the building they had seen was a tower – specifically, the east tower of the Sobibor concentration camp! They had made one giant circle through the woods and ended up exactly where they started. Terrified, the three boys plunged back into the forest. But only Thomas lived to tell about their awful experience. When we reject the guidance of God’s commandments and the teaching of his Church, we are like those boys wandering through the woods at night without a guide, and we make no lasting progress to the happiness we long for. (Hot Illustrations; E- Priest). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) Dorothy Law Nolte wrote, “Children Learn What They Live”
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) Satan’s seven-steps strategy: Dr. Peter Kreeft a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a well-known author and speaker, gave a talk in Ohio, USA. In his talk, he outlined what he calls, “Satan’s spectacularly successful seven-steps sexual strategy.” This is his explanation of how the devil is working in our world right now to destroy families and even the whole human race. Personally, I think Dr. Kreeft is right on target in his analysis. Here it is:
Step 1 in Satan’s strategy – this is the devil’s ultimate goal: winning souls for hell.
Step 2: in order for Satan to win many souls for hell, society must be corrupted.
Step 3: to effectively destroy society, family life must be undermined – because strong families are necessary in order to have strong societies.
Step 4: in order to destroy the family, you must destroy its foundation – stable marriage
Step 5: marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue which is sexual fidelity.
Step 6: fidelity is destroyed by promoting and defending the sexual revolution.
Step 7: the sexual revolution is promoted and defended by the media – through which the seeds of destruction are sown into the minds of millions of people every day. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
25) Statistics and Commentary: The evidence is convincing that the better our relationships are at home, the more effective we are in our careers. If we’re having difficulty with a loved one, that difficulty will be translated into reduced performance on the job. In studying the millionaires in America (U.S. News and World Report), a picture of the “typical” millionaire is an individual who has worked eight to ten hours a day for thirty years and is still married to his or her high school or college sweetheart. A New York executive search firm, in a study of 1365 corporate vice presidents, discovered that 87% were still married to their one and only spouse and that 92% were raised in two-parent families. The evidence is overwhelming that the family is the strength and foundation of society. Strengthen your family ties and you’ll enhance your opportunity to succeed. (Zig Ziglar in Homemade, March 1989). Fr. Kayala. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
26) Top traits of successful families: According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are the top traits of successful families: *Communicating and listening *Affirming and supporting family members *Respecting one another *Developing a sense of trust *Sharing time and responsibility *Knowing right from wrong *Having rituals and traditions *Sharing a religious core *Respecting privacy. (Focus on the Family Bulletin, December 1988). Fr. Kayala. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
27) Profile of a strong family: From a national survey of strong families conducted by the Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, a profile of a strong family:
a. Appreciation. “Family members gave one another compliments and sincere demonstrations of approval. They tried to make the others feel appreciated and good about themselves.”
b. Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner. “They were willing to take a bad situation, see something positive in it and focus on that.”
c. Time Together. “In all areas of their lives–meals, work, recreation–they structured their schedules to spend time together.”
d. High Degree of Commitment. “Families promoted each person’s happiness and welfare, invested time and energy in each other and made family their number one priority.”
e. Good Communication Patterns. “These families spent time talking with each other. They also listened well, which shows respect.”
f. High Degree of Religious Orientation. “Not all belonged to an organized church, but they considered themselves highly religious. (University of Nebraska- Lincoln). Fr. Kayala. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
28)Family Statistics: Families in 2000 will average 1.81 children, down from 1.84 today. Some 60 percent of kids born in the ’80s will live for a time with one parent; 1 kid in 4 will live with a stepparent by age 16. One third of all households will be childless. . . Supporting a teenager still at home will cost $12,000 a year against $7,000 now. Kids who head to college in 2000 will need upwards of $100,000 for each bachelor’s degree. (U.S. News and World Report, Dec .25, 1989). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
29) Rudyard Kipling once wrote about families, “All of us are we–and everyone else is they.” A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness…A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family. (Fingertip Facts). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
30) Threats to the families: Parents rate their inability to spend enough time with their children as the greatest threat to the family. In a survey conducted for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Corp., 35 percent pointed to time constraints as the most important reason for the decline in family values. Another 22 percent mentioned a lack of parental discipline. While 63 percent listed family as their greatest source of pleasure, only 44 percent described the quality of family life in America as good or excellent. And only 34 percent expected it to be good or excellent by 1999. Despite their expressed desire for more family time, two-thirds of those surveyed say they would probably accept a job that required more time away from home if it offered higher income or greater prestige. [Moody Monthly, (December, 1989), p. 72.] Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
31) Disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life: Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book, Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied.
*Marriage loses its sacredness…is frequently broken by divorce.
*Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
*Feminist movements abound.
*Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
*Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
*Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
*Growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
*Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.
(Swindoll, The Quest for Character, Multnomah, p. 90). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
32) “Wow! Wow!” One of Winston Churchill’s biographers, William Manchester [The Last Lion (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1983)] once wrote that the eminent statesman’s feelings about his family were unquestionably warm and intense. Churchill regarded his home as an independent kingdom with its own law, its own customs, even its own language. “Wow!” was the family’s traditional greeting. When Churchill entered the front door, he would cry: “Wow! Wow!” Upon hearing him, his wife would call back in answer, “Wow!” Then the children would rush into his arms and his eyes would mist over. (Wow!) A statesman in his own right (many scholars think he may have served for a time as Israel’s ambassador to foreign courts), Jesus ben Sira, the second century B.C. author of today’s first reading (Year A: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14), also valued the special love and language that unites the members of a family. To that end, he invited his readers to cultivate a love that honors, obeys and cares for the other while speaking the language of comfort, kindness and consideration. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
33) “Family is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” On a recent television “talk show”, the host had invited about two dozen children to appear as his guests. All of them, ranging in ages from three to thirteen years of age were wards of their respective state’s Children’s Services Program and were being cared for by foster parents. Some had been in the foster care system since birth; most had been passed from home to home. Every child expressed the same desire: to be permanently adopted into a family. When asked by the show’s host what “family” meant to him, one small boy summed up the feelings of the other children. “Family”, he replied, “is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” Most of us can be grateful that we have not been similarly deprived of that special place called family. But our gratitude for the gift of family must also be matched by a desire to preserve and strengthen the bonds that unite us and, when necessary, to expend whatever effort is needed to repair and renew those bonds when they are strained. To that end, the author of today’s second reading (Year A: Colossians 3:12-21) offers sage advice, advising women to be submissive, while urging men to love their wives in such a radical way that husbands become their wives’ servants too, and advising children to respect, love and obey their parents. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
34) Pope Francis’ twitter (December 2014): “It is so important to listen! Husbands and wives need to communicate to bring happiness and serenity to family life.” Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
35) Cloud seeding for a brainstorm: Becoming good at the things that build inner confidence and calm takes practice — and a dash of creativity! The following list might provide some cloudseeding for a brainstorm or two of your own. Have some fun with your family…and get ready for a good rest.
1. Pay off your credit cards.
2. Take off ten pounds or accept where you are without any more complaints.
3. Eat dinner together as a family for seven days in a row.
4. Take your wife on a dialogue date (no movie, guys).
5. Read your kids a classic book (Twain’s a good start).
6. Memorize the Twenty-third Psalm as a family.
7. Give each family member a hug for twenty-one days in a row (that’s how long the experts say it takes to develop a habit).
8. Pick a night of the week in which the television will remain unplugged.
9. Go out for a non-fast-food dinner as a family.
10. Pray for your spouse and children every day.
11. Plan a vacation together.
12. Take a vacation together.
13. Read a chapter from the Bible every day until it becomes a habit.
14. Sit together as a family in Church.
15. Surprise your teenager. Wash his car and fill up his gas tank.
16. Take an afternoon off from work; surprise your child by excusing him from school and taking him to a ball game.
17. Take a few hours one afternoon and go to the library as a family.
18. Take a walk as a family.
19. Write each member of your family a letter sharing why you value them.
20. Give your spouse a weekend getaway with a friend (same gender!) to a place of their choice.
21. Go camping as a family.
22. Go to bed early (one hour before your normal bedtime) every day for a week.
23. Take each of your children out to breakfast (individually) at least once a month for a year.
24. Turn down a promotion that would demand more time from your family than you can afford to give.
25. Religiously wear your seat belts.
26. Get a complete physical.
27. Exercise a little every day for a month.
28. Make sure you have adequate life insurance on both yourself and your spouse.
29. Write out information about finances, wills, and important business information that your spouse can use to keep things under control in the event of your death.
30. Make sure your family car is safe (tires, brakes, etc.) and get it tuned up.
31. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm.
32. Put a security system in your house.
33. Attend the parent/teacher meetings of each child as a couple.
34. Help your kids with their homework.
35. Watch the kids on Saturday while your wife goes shopping (but if a friend calls, don’t say that you’re “babysitting”).
36. Explain to your spouse exactly what you do for a living.
37. Put together a picture puzzle. (One thousand pieces or more.)
38. Take time during the week to read a Bible story to your children and then discuss it with them.
39. Encourage each child to submit to you his most perplexing question, and promise him that you’ll either answer it or discuss it with him.
40. Finish fixing something around the house.
41. Tell your kids how you and your spouse met.
42. Tell your kids about your first date.
43. Sit down and write your parents a letter thanking them for a specific thing they did for you. (Don’t forget to send it!)
44. Go on a shopping spree where you are absolutely committed to buying nothing.
45. Keep a prayer journal for a month. Keep track of the specific ways that God answers your needs.
46. Do some stargazing away from the city with your family. Help your children identify constellations, and conclude the evening with prayer to the majestic God Who created the heavens.
47. Treat your wife to a beauty make-over (facial, manicure, haircut, etc.). I hear they really like this.
48. Give the kids an alternative to watching Saturday morning cartoons (breakfast at McDonald’s, garage sales, the park, chores, etc.).
49. Ask your children each day what they did at school (what they learned, who they ate lunch with, etc.).
50. After you make your next major family decision, take your child back through the process and teach him how you arrived at your decision.
51. Start saying to yourself “My car doesn’t look so bad.”
52. Call you wife or husband from work just to see how they’re doing.
53. Compile a family tree and teach your children the history of their ancestors.
54. Walk through an old graveyard with your children.
55. Say no to at least one thing a day — even if it’s only a second piece of pie.
56. Write that letter to the network that broadcast the show you felt was inappropriate for prime time viewing.
57. Turn off the lights and listen to a “praise” tape as you focus your thoughts on the Lord.
58. Write a note to your pastor praising him for something.
59. Take back all the books in your library that actually belong in someone else’s library.
60. Give irritating drivers the right to pull in front of you without signaling and yelling at them.
61. Make every effort to not let the sun go down on your anger.
62. Accept legitimate criticism from your wife or a friend without reacting or defending yourself.
63. If your car has a Christian bumper sticker on in — drive like it.
64. Do a Bible study on the “wise man” and the “fool” in Proverbs…and then apply what it takes to be wise to your life.
65. Make a list of people who have hurt your feelings over the past year…then check your list to see if you’ve forgiven them.
66. Make a decision to honor your parents, even if they made a career out of dishonoring you.
67. Take your children to the dentist and doctor for your wife.
68. Play charades with your family, but limit subjects to memories of the past.
69. Do the dishes for your wife.
70. Schedule yourself a free day to stay home with your family.
71. Get involved in a family project that serves or helps someone less fortunate.
72. As a family, get involved in a recreational activity.
73. Send your wife flowers.
74. Spend an evening going through old pictures from family vacations.
75. Take a weekend once a year for you and your spouse to get away and renew your friendship.
76. Praise your spouse and children — in their presence — to someone else.
77. Discuss a world or national problem and ask your children for their opinion on it.
78. Wait up for your teenagers when they are out on dates.
79. Have a “quiet Saturday” (no television, no radio, no stereo…no kidding).
80. If your children are little, spend an hour playing with them — but let them determine the game.
81. Have your parents tell your children about life when they were young.
82. Give up soap operas.
83. De-clutter your house.
84. If you have a habit of watching late night television, but have to be to work early every morning, change your habit.
85. Don’t accept unnecessary breakfast appointments.
86. Write missionaries regularly.
87. Go through your closets and give everything that you haven’t worn in a year to a clothing relief organization.
88. Become a faithful and frequent visitor of your church’s library.
89. Become a monthly supporter of a Third World child.
90. Keep mementos, school projects, awards, etc. of each child in separate files. You’ll appreciate these when they’ve left the nest.
91. Read the biography of a missionary.
92. Give regularly and faithfully to conscientious church endeavors.
93. Place with your will a letter to each family member telling why you were glad you got to share life with him or her.
94. Go through your old records and tapes and discard any of them that might be a bad testimony to your children.
95. Furnish a room (or a corner of a room) with comfortable chairs and declare it the “disagreement corner.” When conflicts arise, go to this corner and don’t leave until it’s resolved.
96. Give each child the freedom to pick his favorite dinner menu at least once a week.
97. Go over to a shut-in’s house as a family and completely clean it and get the lawn work done.
98. Call an old friend from your past, just to see how he or she is getting along.
99. Get a good friend to hold you accountable for a specific important need (Bible reading, prayer, spending time with your family, losing a few pounds, etc.).
100. Establish a budget.
101. Go to a Christian marriage enrichment seminar.
102. To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home. (Rose Sands, The Saturday Evening Post)
(Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, pp. 219-223). Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
(“Scriptural Homilies” no. 9 by Fr. Tony (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ (or using Google Search) for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only email@example.com. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).