Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5; Col 3: 12-21; Matt 2: 13-15, 19-23.
By Cosmas Okechukwu Ebebe
Christmas celebration is still on. And today is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. An instinctive appeal is to organize a family get-together today. Every family member is celebrating today as a child or parent. And St Paul invites us to, “put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” (I Col 3: 12-13) The day's celebration is like a call to duty as we celebrate labour of love in the family. In the Holy Family, the papa was a carpenter, mama was a house wife and the child Jesus must have helped his father, at least by holding one end of the planks while his father worked and helped the mother in the kitchen too.
2. Message of God's Love Today
The Psalmist reminds us that “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways” (Psalm 128). Fear of the Lord is an enabling fear of love and not a crippling fear of intimidation. The real fear of the Lord creates an atmosphere of freedom that liberates from sin. In a family setting, it happens when there is free flow of communication with God and members. The fear of the Lord breaks down barriers that are created by sin against one another in a family setting. When God is enthroned as a permanent member of a family, there is increased flow of positive energy of love among members because God is witness to all thoughts, words and actions of members. It is wonderful when God's abiding presence becomes a fact known to every member. When a family prays, then eats and chat together, everyone is on the same page as much as possible. Even the declaration of individual intentions when possible in shared intercessory prayers, can help in binding families together as they share concerns in prayers to God.
God assigns profound blessings to congenial love in the family. Through the prophet Sirach, the Lord makes it clear that “whoever honours his father atones for his sins and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure” (Sir 3: 3-4) This is a great family secret revealed against the background of the great temptation for children not to honour their father and glorify their mother. The feast of Holy family offers us an occasion to rethink our relationships in the family. Parents should lead the way in organizing family togetherness, meal and meeting on the feast of Holy family. To some families, it has become a family tradition while some may be aspiring to achieve it.
The safety of the family is also presented to us in God's message of love for us today. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to take Jesus and Mary to safety in Egypt. Joseph did as the angel communicated. This explains that the greatest security in the family comes from parents listening to God in every aspect of their lives. When perplexed, parents should ask God for direction. A father and mother who are worried or particularly concerned about their child should ask God for assistance and direction of guidance. Dismayed are parents who oversee the activities of their children without directives from God as creator and Jesus as redeemer under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The feast of today reminds us that family life is not a bed of roses. The Holy Family was in exile in Egypt as king Herod sought to kill the infant king whom he mistook to be a contender to his worldly throne. Sometimes, there are unprovoked or even provoked enemies of the family within and outside. Let us take a cue from the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They obeyed the Lord and were not unnecessarily confrontational. While in exile, they listened. When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again and directed him, “Take, the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead” (Matt 2: 20). The Herods in the life of our family shall die in due course, and we shall know of their death if we keep listening to God as a family. Sometimes, the Herod dies but we keep living in the exile of anger and hatred for faded or dead and defeated enemies of the family. Of course, I treasure the saying of Thomas Jefferson that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”. A family living in the freedom of God keeps vigilance in prayers. Even when Joseph came back to the land of Israel, he still settled in the little town of Nazareth because he was afraid when he heard that Archelaus succeeded his father Herod. In doing so, Joseph cooperated in bringing about the prophecy that Jesus “shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt 2: 23). The family that listens to God cooperate with the grace of God in bringing about the kingdom of God. The truth remains that parents do not know what each individual child in their family will turn out to be. The healthy approach to family life and upbringing is for the family to strive to live in the presence of God now and always. Issues around living in the presence of God, religious and social activities of each family can be reviewed at Holy Family celebration. Also, the family feast and get together can be shared with the neighbour. The spirit of the directives God gave concerning the Passover in Exodus, can be invoked around the Holy Family celebration. There is room and invitation for sharing with the neighbour especially when a household is small: “If the household is too small for the animal, he must join with his neighbour nearest to his house” (Ex 12: 4). The tall order in this directive is the mention of the “neighbour nearest to his house”. There is always the temptation not to take a next-door family/house occupant as 'the neigbhour'.
Finally, the family is the fertile ground for nurturing personal worth and integrity. Children in particular are the apple of the eyes of the family. When parents get it right in their children, the family life is great even in old age of parents. The story is told of a father who before he died said to his son: “this is a watch your grandfather gave me and this is more than 200years old, but before I give it to you, go to the watchmaker on the first street and tell him I want to sell it, then see how much he offers you.” He went and then came back and said to his father, “the watchmaker offered 5 dollars because according to him, the watch is old”. He then said to the son: “go to the coffee shop”. He came back and said: “He also offered 5 dollars. His father then said, “Go to the museum and show that watch”. He went and then came back and said to his father, “they offered me a million dollars for this piece.” The father said: “I wanted to let you know the right value for your valuables, don't put yourself in the wrong place and get angry if you don't get the right value. Whoever knows your value will appreciate you, don't stay in a place that doesn't value you. Know your worth!
3. Take these Beauty tips for family celebration
a. Cleanse your heart daily by REPENTANCE.
b. Bath thoroughly in the WORD OF GOD.
c. Stay moisturized with PRAYER.
d. Apply FORGIVENESS to keep wrinkles away.
e. Sprinkle LOVE all over.
f. Dash on or dab plenty of PATIENCE.
g. Remember, WORRY and ANGER can cause disease.
h. FAITH is the key to ageing slowly and gracefully.
I. Wear a SMILE to have the perfect glow.
j. PREACH the Gospel with exemplary Holiness.
(Source: WhattSapp Forwarding.)