Monday, December 31, 2007

Homily: Solemnity of the Holy Family

1. Every year on the first Sunday after Christmas the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family in order to emphasize the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and Prince of Peace was born into a humble, poor, normal family. Jesus did not mysteriously appear one day fully grown, but like all of us, he was born into a family, was taught by his parents and played with friends just like us.

2. The holy family of Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus is the model for all families, and in our world we certainly need a model for what a family ought to be. We know that in our world the family is under attack, the idea of what a family is and is not seems to be up for grabs, although in truth, it is not. The family has been instituted by God, and we have no right to change what God has set up for our own good. As Pope Paul VI said in 1964 “May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing…the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.” And so the Church, in Her wisdom, gives us this Solemnity every year to help us meditate on what God’s plan for our families truly is.

3. The family is a special setting in which the love of God is shown to the world in a particular way. In fact, the family, is shows forth God in a very particular way because it mirrors for us the Holy Trinity. Within the Holy Trinity the love between the Father and the Son, and their total self giving, is so strong, so real, that it becomes a whole new person – the Holy Spirit. The family mirrors this reality in a very particular way. The love and total self gift between a husband and a wife is so strong, so real, that nine months later you have to give it a name. The family then is called to mirror, as faithfully as it possibly can, the relationship that exists within the Holy Trinity. That, my friends, is a very high calling, a great responsibility, but not one that is impossible or harsh.

4. The evil one, because he knows the great power that a holy and healthy family has to show forth the love of God in the world, has a very particular hatred for the family. In our world he has had great success in twisting and perverting the family. He has managed, in a great number of cases, to turn families from being what they should be: a true sign of the love, of the total and complete self giving, of the fruitfulness and life producing power of God Himself. He has managed to turn them into an image of selfishness, of lust and sterility in which the fruit of love, namely children, are seen as a burden rather than a gift. He has managed to make so many families into images of disunity, hatred, anger, and unforgiveness instead of what they should be; images of unity, love, peace, and forgiveness. He has managed to pervert that most beautiful act of love between husband and wife, that act in which husbands and wives are called to give themselves to each other freely, totally, and faithfully to one another in such a way that it is always open to the gift of new life. He has twisted this holy act into something that is full of lust, full of selfishness, all to often unfaithful, and rendered unfruitful and sterile through the great evil of contraception.

5. My dear friends, our families, our marriages, are meant to show forth the love of God – the very love that is shown to us in God’s gift to us of His only Son. The birth, life, and death of Jesus shows us the great love He has for us. We are called show forth that love by living out family life to the full by never being afraid to follow the plan for life and love that God lays out for us even if it seems hard. In my few years as a priest I have been invited into the lives of many families. Some of those families are not living God’s plan – they have played into the traps set by the devil – and they are not happy. On the other hand, some of those families are giving themselves to the plan God has for married life and the family. They are striving to live according to the teachings of Christ and the Church, they are giving God full permission to use their love to bring new life into the world, and they are happy and joyful. They remind me of the Holy Family of Nazareth. If only that could be said of all families.

6. My friends, do not be afraid to live family life to the full, for when we do we will find a joy like no other. Will it be easy, no, but I promise, we will experience a joy and love like none other both here and in the life to come.

Child Jesus, model of innocence and purity, have mercy on us.
Mary, mother of the Son of God, pray of us.
St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ, pray for us.


Father Jack Garvey said...

A Benedictine sister here gave me this guide to homilies:

A Rating System for Homilies

“G” Generally acceptable to everyone. Full of inoffensive, puerile platitudes. Usually described as “wonderful” or “marvelous.”

“PG” For more mature congregations. At times this homily makes the Gospel relevant to today’s issues. May even contain mild suggestions for change. Often described as “challenging,” though no one intends to take any action or change any attitudes.

“R” Definitely restricted to those not upset by truth. This homily “tells it like it is.” Threatens the comfortable; most often described as “disturbing” or “controversial.” Usually indicates that the preacher has an outside source of income.

“X” Positively limited to those who can handle bombshell/explosive ideas. This homily really “socks it to ‘em.” The kind of homily that landed Jeremiah in the well, got Amos run out of town, surprised Jonah, and nailed Jesus to the cross. Always described as “shocking” or “in poor taste.” The person who preaches this sermon had better have his suitcase packed and life insurance paid in full.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Jack Garvey:

I'm interested in how you think the Benedictine Sister would rank Fr. Christensen's homily on the above rating system.

How would you rate the homily?

I can imagine that for many in our broken culture, this homily would at the very least be "disturbing" and "controversial", likely even "shocking" or "in poor taste". But what set the great preachers and teachers of our faith apart from others is that they spoke the truth without reservation, without worry of the ramifications here on earth, even if it meant death, and they spoke it out of self-giving love for their brothers and sisters.

May Fr. Christensen receive many graces for his courage to do likewise, and may be feel blessed to be "ranked" among the great preachers of our faith, including the Savior of the World.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great homily, and would have loved to have heard it. I don't really see what would be disturbing about it. How are families to know how they should be living their lives if they never hear it, and priests are afraid to teach it? My compliments to Fr. C.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this publishing wonderful homily online, Father. I wanted you to know that I excerpted some of the material for our Parish School of Religion handout:

Thank you for your work and dominus tecum!