Homily for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 21, 2013

Homily for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A  2014

[Bishop Stephens’ first collection of Year A homilies may be purchased in e-book format at  It is called Teaching the Church Year]

Families have not changed all that much in two centuries. It is always difficult on a day to day basis to live with others, whether they are husbands, wives or children – and these days, more extended family. In Jesus’ time the families often lived all together in one small living space which always makes day-to-day dealings even more difficult.

The Holy Family was not without its difficulties and problems either. How difficult it would be traveling with a wife who was close to birthing, having trouble finding a place to stay, having a baby away from home and help, being afraid for the life of the new child and fleeing into Egypt. Quite a difficult start to a marriage, don’t you think!

What helps that marriage survive, what helps families who live together, what helped the early church communities staying in close quarters is laid out for us today in the three readings.

Once again, patience seems to be a primary virtue that has to be developed. But we also see other virtues vying for the important place. Sirach, in the First reading, places honor and respect in a primary place. One needs to honor one’s parents, respect them and do what one can for their comfort, safety and help. Many of us in the ‘sandwich generation’ have shown great love and honor for our parents.  As a people, we live longer today and many of us have had parents who lived to a ripe old age. But with that wonderful extension of life comes problems – failing joints, failing balance, failing memory, Alzheimer’s, pneumonias, loss of senses – sight and hearing, and a variety of other ailments. This places a great burden on caregivers and requires a lot of what Sirach sees as a major virtues – the virtue of patience and kindness. “Even if his mind fails, be patient with him; kindness…will be credited to you against your sins.”  Sirach sees all this as a matter of justice. We must be especially just to family members.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, writes about the new family, the community of believers that, as you know, lived together and shared what they had. He then extends his words to the family proper of husbands, wives and children. When we live in a family, he says, there are many virtues that need to be cultivated for success – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. But even more, we need to be able to forgive, and above all, to love. His advice to husbands is to love their wives – this at a time when marriages were often more for convenience or economics than for love. His advice to wives probably bristles many women today – be subject to your husbands – but we have to remember that this was written for the world view of a patriarchal society, and we might say today: Wives, consult with your husbands and understand their point of view; come to joint decisions and support each other. Not what Paul says, but in the spirit of the virtues he describes, I think that is what he might say today.

Even with the children he places a burden of absolute obedience as a duty of children, but he does balance that with advice to fathers not to push things too far or cause a strong reaction in your children so that they are never tempted to disobey.

The Psalm today puts all this in perspective when it says “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord.” In other words, fear of the Lord will cause us to do the right thing in our family relationships. By “fear of the Lord”, which is, by the way, one of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that we get in Confirmation, we mean the kind of high respect that we have which would cause us not to want to hurt or offend that person. It doesn’t mean we should go around being afraid all the time. But if we have respect for God, enough so that we would never want to offend him, all the other things will fall into place.

The Gospel today continues Luke’s narrative that we began last week. The wise men have come to see Jesus; non-Jews from around the known world have come to pay respect. In this next section Luke uses the Hebrew prophecies to create a story of Joseph being warned in a dream to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. The prophecy is then cited: “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” But Luke also had to show that Jesus came from Nazareth, so he tells a story which shows how Jesus gets to Nazareth from Egypt by way of Canaan.

What we need to see in this story, though, is that a young family is being pulled apart, asked to many things which were upsetting, scary and destructive of family. What we see in Joseph, though, is the perfect obedience and trust in God that we have also seen in Matthew’s accounts of Mary’s perfect trust in God. Joseph hears the words of the Angel, he immediately obeys them without question.  He has given himself up to the Lord. So that is the last piece of the puzzle. Families need to know that often they are helpless in some of the problems that life throws at them, and that they can survive it all, simply by placing their trust in the Lord, listening to what he tells them to do, follow of their hearts and move on.

So, in summary, we can see that our family life will be strengthened by trust in God, by patience, by respect of God (fear of the Lord) and respect for others, and by developing an array of helping virtues, the most important of which is love. Not bad advice back then, nor is it today. Not much has changed in two centuries!

And this is the advice we hear in the Good News today on this Feast of the Holy Family.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

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