INTRODUCTION In the beginning, God wanted to make himself part of the family of Adam and Eve, but as a result of their disobedience they failed to welcome him . But the Gospels have revealed that God finally became part of human family thanks to the obedience of Mary and Joseph. Hence today, the Church invites us to celebrate the solemnity of this Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph; the most significant family in the history of our salvation. It did not just reveal the importance of family, but it equally showed the perfect character of persons who knew how to submit to the will of God no matter how difficult it is: Jesus humbled himself to accept the will of the Father by coming to live among men and to suffer for men (Phil 2:6-11) Mary accepted to face public shame of conceiving a child outside Joseph just to submit to the will of God (Lk 1:38). Joseph accepted the difficult will of God by taking the responsibility of the child that was not his fruit (Matt 1:24). Meanwhile the three readings today are centred on the importance of family as the first place of expressing human relationships and a place where God can dwell through the cooperation of every single individual.
FIRST READING: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 The First Reading is taken from the wisdom book of Sirach also known as Ecclesiasticus. It is said to have been authored by a 2nd Century BCE Hellenistic Jewish Sage known as Ben Sirach. This particular chapter contains fragments of the author’s commentary on the decalogue, precisely the fourth commandment that says; “Honour your father and your mother that your days may be long.” Meanwhile in the Jewish rabbinic tradition, children’s obedience to their parents was sacrosanct. But Ben Sirach reminds the children not only about their obligation to keep to this commandment, but he equally underlines the benefits of obedience: 1.It atones sins 2. It answers prayers 3. It accumulates treasures and above all, 4. It brings long life. In a world of influences and decay of family values, does obedience still have a place? How many parents still enjoy obedience from their children? And more importantly, how many parents are good examples for their children? How many parents teach their children about family and social values through their words and action? Ben Sirach admonishes all of us to revisit our family relationships.
SECOND READING: Colossians 3:12-21 The letter to the Colossians is one of the Pauline Corpus (letters of Paul) believed to have been written from the prison. It contains series of Paul’s refutation of heresies (doctrinal errors) which was becoming influential in the city of Colosse that flourished as a famous commercial city (2:4,8,16,18,21-23). In his letter today, Paul gives the Colossians a household code meant to govern their familial and social relationships. It includes compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and respect for one another in the name of God. This letter expresses the value that Paul attaches to the family life and his understanding that faith cannot flourish if families are in disarray. No doubt, this teaching largely influenced the Church’s perception of the family as a domestic Church (CCC 2204) and as a basic unit of the social fabric of the society (CCC 2207).
GOSPEL: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 What type of child is this? Mary and Joseph might have questioned. Right from the first moment the coming of this child was announced, the couple have not known peace. Mary could not have totally been at peace looking at Joseph taking care of the pregnancy both of them knew was not of Joseph. And for Joseph, it must have been a difficult experience; a hard obedience for that matter. Even when it was time to deliver Mary of this child, it was still not an easy experience for the couple who wandered through the cold night and found the manger the only place to lay the child. Again, today their joy turned into sorrow as the life of this child was threatened which made them to hurridly set out for Egypt in the cold of the night. And I ask, why would God ask them to move to Egypt? Why not any other surrounding nation or kingdom? This should make us to understand that there is something more deep about the journey than just an escape for refuge. 1. Yes today Christ enters Egypt. It is a land of exile that will eventually become a land of mission. 2. It is the same Egypt of slavery where his ancestors knew suffering and pain and were liberated by God through Moses. 3. He enters Egypt to accomplish what Moses could not accomplish; the salvation of the inhabitants. 4. It is the second entry and exodus of a new family of Israel born through Christ. 5. The the journey of the ancient Israel into Egypt began with Joseph the man of dream, and today Joseph the man of dream led the Holy family of Israel into Egypt. 6. The old Isarel moved into Egypt because of ‘Hunger persecution’, and today the new Israel moved into Egypt because of ‘Herod’s persecution.’ 7. In Egypt the life of Moses was saved when Pharaoh was eliminating the Male children of the Israelites under the age of two, and today the life of the baby Jesus was saved in Egypt when Herod was eliminating children under the age of two. 8. Moses led the children of Israel out from Egypt, and today Jesus the new Moses moved out of Egypt with Mary and Joseph.
9. The old family of Israel moved from Egypt to the Promised Land thus regaining God’s promised land of Canaan (Gn 15:18-21; 26:3; 28:13; Ex 23:31; Nb 34:1-12); and today the Holy Family move from Egypt into the promised land of Nazareth thus regaining God’s promise of the land of Nazareth: ” For he shall be called a Nazarene” (Nazara origin from Hebrew netser ‘shoots’ found in Is 11:1; 2:23). What a hidden mystery in the Word of God!
LIFE MESSAGE 1. Herod represents all who have no value for the human life; a perfect depiction of those who promote the elimination of innocent unborn human beings and other forms of homicide. On the contrary, Mary and Joseph are models of pro-life. They protected the life of the child Jesus by risking their own life. Therefore we are called to be active in defending the non-negotiable dignity of human life.
2. The perpetuity of marriage We live in a society that no longer understand the tenets of marriage. Many people now rush into marriage and rush out in the name divorce. We must understand that it wasn’t easy for Joseph to accept Mary, yet he loved and cherished her. Hence, marriage should not be a flee from singlehood but a school of two imperfect persons searching for perfection together. It is a field of play where each has to play 90mins without substitute. Divorce is not a solution but a puncture to the ideal family life. We are encouraged therefore through example of the Holy Family to hold on to each other in love especially in difficult moments of life.
PRAYER Most families are not living in peace today. Instead of wearing the garment of love, they wear that of hatred. We pray that all families who are experiencing crises today as a result of divorce, clash of personalities, loss of job, illness, death and other bitter experience may find love, peace and restoration through the Holy Family of Nazareth.
I equally pray that God who has kept us from beginning of the year 2019 irrespective of the many battles we have fought, visible and invisible, may keep us all to see the year 2020 as he kept the numbers of the Israelites intact after the great battles (Numbers 31:49). HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!