Feast of the Holy Family (December 28, 2014)
Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3
Today I wanted to preach on family life since every single one of you are either a parent, a spouse, someone’s son or daughter plus you are part of a church family.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They are the model to which other families should strive to imitate. Whether we are referring to a biological family, extended family, adopted family or simply friends that you consider family. The Holy Family show us what it looks like to have faith, obedience, and love…both to each other, to those around us and to God.
So my goal this weekend is to inspire everyone in the church to somehow be more like the Holy Family. But I didn’t want just to say, “Pray more” or “be nicer.” I wanted to give some concrete suggestions using the Scriptures we read today. So I did what any good, analytical thinker would do…I turned to Facebook! I updated my status to say, “Needing help! I’m working on my next homily and wanted to know what you think is the biggest challenge or threat to family life currently.” I figured I couldn’t inspire you if I didn’t know what was holding you back. The responses I got were eye-opening:
Being too busy with worldly commitments like work and sports. Putting things other than family before family. Not spending time together for meals. Not keeping everything balanced. Lack of time for one another. Busyness influenced by television, technology and electronics. Adults on their phones oblivious to their spouse or kids. Our failure to speak face to face. Facebook (ironic since that’s how I got this list!). Accessibility and use of pornography. The lack of understanding that love is a choice not an emotion. Not having God as our anchor. Individualism fed by the disconnect of the media. Other family members and their addictions. Relativism. Distractions. Lack of discipline. When your husband lives in another city most of the time (oh wait, that was my Wife’s response). Parents being friends with their kids rather than being a parent first. Having a lack of closeness when everyone is pulled away in so many different directions.
And one of my favorites, “Conversations turn to texting. Emotions turn into emoticons. Love turns to lust. The world is at a person’s fingertips and it draws us away from each other and from God.” That one was written by a teenager. Pretty insightful.
What do you think? Are our families struggling? It sure seems to me! Based on these responses, family life does not seem to be an easy path. And since every one of us belongs to a family of some sort, we are all on this path together. I sincerely believe that today’s Scripture readings give us some insight as to how we can make this path more bearable in spite of all the challenges we experience to family life in today’s modern age. It boils down to two words, ACTIVE FAITH. Anyone can have faith, but it takes deliberate intention to have active faith in God.
Let me explain. Today’s reading from Hebrews refers to Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice to God. We all know the story. Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac, when they were advanced in age. A son they both desperately wanted but they pretty much gave up on the idea of having children due to their apparent infertility. Abraham didn’t understand, but his God asked something of him and he followed. Thankfully the story had a happy ending as God intervened at the last minute and Isaac was spared. God did this to test Abraham’s faith. His ACTIVE faith.
The Gospel passage tells us about Mary and Joseph taking their son, Jesus, to the temple to offer sacrifice according to the law of the Lord. We know that they were a poor family since they offered the sacrifice of birds instead of a larger animal like a lamb. So this poor family made the trip to the Temple in Jerusalem, by foot and with a newborn child, because their faith demanded it from them. They had an ACTIVE faith.
What is the difference then between these two families and many of our modern families? For this, I will return to my very scientific “Facebook research” one more time. A mom of three wrote, “I don’t think families pray together much anymore. Not just meal time prayers, but earnest, on your knees, seeking God together. Parents rely almost exclusively on the church to train their children instead of making time to model the study of His word. All the comments about technology (being a distraction) are true, but I think they reflect a deeper issue. We use technology as an escape. We escape instead of living intentionally, instead of being in the moment.” I believe what she is saying here is that many of us do not have a strong ACTIVE faith.
The best place to start living an active faith is within our own families. Could you imagine what the world would be like if all Christian families did this? It may seem impossible or overwhelming at first glance. But if we all did our part, family by family, we can slowly convert our towns, our states, our country and eventually our entire world. And yes, I am fully aware of how busy we are and how precious our time is…but isn’t that all the more reason why we need to use our time wisely? So my advice to you is from Nike shoes, “Just Do It!” Seriously. Pray together on your knees as a family. Study your faith together. Seek God together. Put down your phones. Put family first. Eat together as much as possible. Turn off the TV on occasion and instead, fill it with face to face conversation with the people you love.
Pope Francis recently said that, “The family is a community of love where each of us learns to relate to others and to the world around us.” Let us grow this love by getting rid of the unnecessary distractions the world has to offer and instead, ACTIVELY pursue an intimate relationship with the God who created you and your family.