Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Called To Be Family

Do you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want to change society for the better? Do you want to leave your mark on history? Then be a good father or mother.

Study after study shows us and common sense confirms that children make out better in life when they are raised in a stable home with a loving father and mother. The unconditional love of a mother keeps them emotionally stable throughout life. The discipline of a father gives them the tools they need to be successful in school and in work. There is no better place than the home for a child to learn the faith, taking after the example of his or her parents to love God, to serve neighbor and to live with his or her ultimate goal of reaching heaven. No other institution in society can shape and form children better than families can. And when families fail, the community as a whole suffers because of it.

Because the family is the most fundamental building block of both the Church and society, we serve the world best by being good fathers and mothers. There is no other role we can undertake to better the world that is more effective or more meaningful. There is no other job that is more consequential to the future of humankind than that of a father and mother.

God understood this when He created us. He gave women and men a nearly irresistible attraction to each other and gave them the power to cooperate in creation by uniting in love to bring forth children. When He sent His Son, Jesus, to be born for our salvation, God understood that He would need a family to grow in wisdom, age and favor as Saint Luke tells us in today’s gospel. If Jesus needed a family, then we certainly also need one.

And so, on this beautiful feast day, we look to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth, for inspiration. They lived out perfectly what God intended marriage and family life to be.

Consider, first of all, Saint Joseph’s great faith. When He discovers that his fiancee, Mary, is pregnant, he trusts the angel’s revelation to him that it is through the Holy Spirit that she is with child. He surrenders all his plans to accept Mary as his wife. There must have been times when he felt he had let them down. It must have torn him up inside that the only place he could provide for Mary to deliver Jesus in was a stable. When they fled to Egypt to avoid Herod who threatened to kill the child, he must have wondered what he had gotten himself into. Yet courageously, he protects Jesus and Mary. While in Egypt, he must have struggled to find work in a land where he did not know the language or customs. But out of love and a strong commitment to his family, he found a way to make it work through God’s grace. He is an example to all fathers that, no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in, God will provide if they remain faithful to their wives and loving to their children.

Secondly, Mary is the premiere example of what it means to be a wife and mother. Though her pregnancy was certainly unplanned, she accepted and loved the child growing within her. Though it must have been uncomfortable for her to travel all the way to Bethlehem on a donkey when she was so close to giving birth, we do not hear one word of grumbling or complaint from her. Likewise, she accepts that a stable is the best that Joseph can do. There is another interesting piece to the gospel story that often goes unnoticed. When it is time for the Holy Family to flee to Egypt, Joseph is the one to receive the message from an angel in a dream. Then, when it is time for them to return to Nazareth, again it is Joseph who receives the message in a dream. When Joseph told Mary it was time to go, she could have said to him that she did not feel like moving again. She could have said, “When angels start talking to me in dreams, then I’ll go.” Instead, she humbly places herself under Joseph’s protection, trusting him to do the right thing. She did not act this way out of weakness or out of fear of her husband. She did it out of love both for him and for her child. She also did it out of faith that God would provide for them all.

Finally, Jesus is an example for all children. Though He is God, he placed Himself under the care of human parents, Mary and Joseph. He obeyed them trusting that they loved Him. If Jesus obeyed his parents, then children must certainly obey theirs!

It is very tempting as a child to think that your parents do not understand what you are going through. It is tempting for you to believe that you know better what is good for you than they do. However, your parents were once your age. Though the world has certainly changed, they experienced just about everything you are going through. They know what it’s like, and they only want the best for you. God has given you your parents to take care of you and guide you through life. Accept what they have to tell you and obey them because they have your best interest at heart. God promises that whoever obeys his parents -  not only when he or she is a child but even into adulthood - will have a happy and successful life. When it is hard to obey, pray to Jesus that He will teach you and strengthen you. With so many things in today’s world that can harm you, it is more important now than ever that you listen to and obey your parents.

Of course, not everyone is blessed with happy marriages or stable homes. We can never forget parents who struggle to raise their children alone or young people who feel trapped in negligent and abusive homes. The Holy Family of Nazareth can help them as well. God wants every home to be happy and every child to be successful. Therefore, we can trust that He will provide for all our needs if we turn to Him with faith and with a heart ready to commit to our families no matter what the cost.

It is vital to our success as a nation and central to our work as a Church that every family be a place where Jesus is found. Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, if we place Jesus at the center of our home, our success and happiness will be assured.

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