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Sunday, December 28, 2014

THE HOLY FAMILY: Model for all Human Families

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Solemnity of the Holy Family, Dec. 28, 2014
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

       This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family. 
The fact that today’s celebration comes on the heels of Christmas is not a coincidence. No, today’s Solemnity of the Holy Family is a reminder of God’s will.  God Himself was born into a family to bring salvation to all mankind. So, for God, the family is the cradle for salvation. 
Joseph, Jesus and Mary are models of holy family life.  We can see in their lives how God designed the family for mankind.  
Let me focus on three points. 

Devotion to God

The first point of what constitutes a holy family is devotion to God. What does this mean? It doesn't mean family members are perfect. Even Jesus' family was not perfect. No, such a family puts God first. 
Family members learn and strive to follow God’s commandments. And parents are the first teachers of the faith to their children. As we hear in today’s first reading from Sirach 3:2-6,12-14, “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”
Parents must teach children good moral values, and children need to learn godly values taught by their parents. 
Families need to read the Bible together. They need to learn how to understand what God says to us in Scripture. As the saying goes, “A family that prays together stays together.” 
Families are to inspire vocations to the Church. The Church needs holy priests and sisters. Holy vocations are given life in the family. We see this thorugh the example of the lives of many saints. When Saint Therese joined the Carmelite religious order at the early age of 15, she joined  two of her elder sisters in the convent, who had helped form her relationship with God.  Saint John Paul II was inspired to a life of holiness through the influence of his father, who he would often see on his knees praying. 
Devotion to Holy Matrimony
The second point of what constitutes a holy family is devotion to holy matrimony. God teaches us that marriage is sacred. God calls the husband and wife to give themselves fully to one another. 
The marriage act is a unity that is fully expressed in the conjugal act. During this act of love, the man unites with his wife so intimately that the two become one flesh. So a holy marriage inspires a holy family. 
God teaches us that the sacrament of marriage can only be celebrated between a man and a woman. God has made this teaching clear throughout the scriptures.  As Pope John Paul II states in this book, Covenant of Love, “Familial love is precisely the union of a man and a woman in total self-donation, which is physically expressed through their masculine and feminine bodies.” Saint John Paul II further says, “Since it is impossible for two men (or two women) to give themselves physically to one another, any attempted union between them ceases to be a gift. It becomes a using of each other, or, at least, a using of each others’ bodies.” 
Devotion to Sanctity of Life 
Tis the Season to be Pro-Life
The third point of what constitutes a holy family is devotion to holiness of life. Families are to respect life. God made each of us unique, wonderful and special.  Before we were conceived, God knew each one of us. So we are to respect one another as God’s children, those who are born and those who are unborn. 
Through the gift of life, we are to respect each other’s bodies, and we are to respect our own bodies. We are to learn how to control our passions and desires. Mary and Joseph are a good example of this. Although Mary and Joseph were betrothed, they did not have sexual relations. And when Mary became mysteriously pregnant, Joseph did not want to put her to shame. He respected her out of love. Nor did Joseph abandon Mary. No, he loved and cared for her! 
Devotion to sanctity of life means that we do not use birth control. We are to be open to the gift of life in God’s time, not our time. Sexual union expresses love in its fullest meaning, and this love must be kept sacred and special. It is not something to be tossed around or thrown out to the dogs.  No! Sexual union is a bond of communion in the life of the Trinity and is therefore open to new life. 
My brothers and sisters, today’s Solemnity of the Holy Family emphasizes the wonderful gift of the family! It emphasizes our need to strive to live as holy families. This is what our Church needs! This is what our society needs! This is what we need! Holy families! Why? Because we live in a time when the life of the family is under a severe attack. 
The family is the basis for everything that thrives in our human societies. Families are the backbone of the life of human civilization. Once the family goes, society goes.
As we celebrate today’s Solemnity of the Holy Family, let us praise God for the gift of the family. Let us pray for our families here at Saints Peter and Paul, and for all families that we will strive to be devoted to God, devoted to Holy Matrimony, and devoted to  the sanctity of life. 
Through the intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, may each one of us grow in a deeper relationship with God who is the Father of all families. May God bless you and your families this day and always.
Wedding Feast at Cana: Mary to Jesus, "They have no wine."

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