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Contents: Volume 2 - Feast of the Holy Family
December 30 2018


 

The

HOLY

FAMILY

2018

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. –

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1.

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Feast of the Holy Family

I struggle with the disparity between the holiness of the Holy Family as reflected in this Sunday's readings and the reality of my family life in the present day. I often think that perhaps it is just my family or it is just because these readings occur shortly after Christmas Day, the culmination of an exhausting period of time. Then I think: something is wrong with this "reasoning", these are excuses!

In our Gospel, Mary and Joseph initially acted just like most modern day parents would and Jesus acted just like an almost teenage would! Their "holiness" overcame the natural tendencies that we all have, those tendencies that make adults, almost adults, and children alike, grumpy, exhausted, irritable, and uncooperative. I have concluded that the focus should be on what families (my family) can do to minimize the impact of the "drama" that naturally occurs or that becomes exacerbated when those tendencies take over the scene.

I think we need to examine what happens before the "scene", that is, examine what we do and do not do to foster "holiness". The readings from the Book of Sirach and the Letter to the Colossians give us some suggestions. It is reasonable to assume that how you prepare for life's "drama" is reflected in how you behave when "drama" occurs.

One thing seems clear, no matter what preparation one makes. We all need to be grounded solidly in the ways of the Lord. We all need to be sure that the Lord is the one directing our lives and, therefore, the center of our lives. Input = output.

This day, when there is much nudging in the pews and perhaps extra internal tugs at our consciences, we all need to commit to more prayer. Listening to the silence in our hearts will help us to be honest with ourselves. It will help us hear the Divine within us who will direct our ways toward holiness, or at least toward better responses to the "drama" in our lives.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Feast of the Holy Family Jesus Mary and Joseph December 30 2018

Sirach 3:2-6 & 12-14; Responsorial Psalm 126; Colossians 3:12-17; Gospel Acclamation Colossians 3:15-16; Luke 4:41-52

This is one of those Sundays of the year when Vatican Liturgy Planners have trouble deciding on what segments of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to use. There is a sort of law and order approach in which authority is invested in the father as head of the household. That is the focus of reading from Sirach. If the choice for the first reading is from the first book of Samuel, the focus is on Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She is the mover and shaker who begs God for a son. When she is blessed with a son she gives him up to service of God. If we speak about all attention being granted to the father we overlook the role of the mother in nourishing, supporting, encouraging, and education. If we look to Hannah as an example, we wonder about the dissolution of the family in favor of service to the Lord. In the reading of Sirach we can focus less on paternal domination than on the essential need for mutual respect within families. If we look to the story of Hannah and Samuel, we get the idea that parents at some point must let go their offspring so they can make their own way. Respect within the family and letting go are not easy virtues to cultivate.

In Luke’s gospel we listen to the story of boy Jesus stepping outside the family circle to engage elders in the temple. That had to be more exciting for Jesus than helping in the shop or bringing in water. When Mary and Joseph find him in the temple they discover him talking with the teachers of the law. In most families, Jesus would have received a tongue lashing and been grounded. We should not take this child domination as an example for our own families. Jesus did go back home to Nazareth and not insist on doing his own thing. A family dominated by the child (children) is not a family.

There is a problem with many of the stories of Jesus’ childhood. Most stories deny the humanity of Jesus in favor of his divinity. As a human, Jesus would have learned, grown, and related to his family and the world just as we do. If his divinity overshadowed his humanity, he would not have lived as a human. His person would have Divinity dominate and his humanity would have been only sham. What we experience, what we know is that being a family isn’t easy. Being a family is not a process like factory production or the conducting of business. In days when the majority of families were engaged in a family business, each member of the family would grow into a role supporting the family. Times have changed and no nostalgic backward look will return us to what was. Nor should it! There was abuse -- mental, emotional, and physical -- in those days. Any one challenged with physical, emotional, or mental capabilities were hidden away in attics or cellars, or institutionalized. All things were under the father’s control and his will was the law. Mothers resorted to subterfuge and manipulation to impose their thinking and will. The good old days weren’t necessarily all that good.

Yet, there seems to be a sense and a longing for strong family relationships. The season is the time for the loving return of prodigal children, of wandering spouses, of efforts to overcome past sins within the family. The Christ child appears to awaken a desire for the perfect family. It’s the hoped for world in which spears are refashioned into pruning hooks and swords into plowshares. It’s a time when we hope we "ain’t a gonna study war no more." Then it’s the day after Christmas. Peace on earth to men of good will dissipates like early morning fog.

The challenges for families are as insistent and intense as ever in human history. The drumbeat of consumerism focuses us on things instead of relationships. Technology focuses us on how many "likes" we can collect as if those "likes" amounted to being loved and cared about. Cell phone technology removes the need to "listen" to another. Individuals control their contacts. We quickly learn how to "unfriend." Even though voices against history’s patriarchal past are loud and insistent, our world is moving rapidly toward authoritarian leadership fueled by divisive rhetoric pitting race against race, gender against gender, straight against gay, truth against dishonesty.

On this celebration of the family we can only hope to find in the good news a way to transform our families. In which ever second reading the presider at Mass chooses, that reading contains basic principles that apply to family life. Most simply put the message is respect for the other, for listening to the other, and in loving the other. That is Paul’s message. In Luke’s gospel, the return of Jesus with his parents and in his listening to them is a model for not only children but also parents. We should understand obedience as another word meaning listening with one’s heart and will. We need to listen to our children, to our spouses, to our extended families. If we listen we learn from them, share with them, and respect them in their personal struggles and in their accomplishments and hopes and dreams.

Our most common understanding of obedience means is that we cede control over events and movements of our lives, of our thoughts, and of our hearts to someone in authority. This weak understanding of obedience carries the danger of disrespecting self. In disrespecting self we block from our consciousness any appreciation for others. We are rendered unable to trust. The family that steals freedom of person will be a family riddled with guilt and filled with accusations of blame. Such a family is a hot-bed of hatred and one-up-man-ships. Paul instructs us how we can live in the life of God. "Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love that is the bond of perfection." Ultimately love is the glue that holds a family together.

It seems that this "love stuff" is just overly sweet, wimpy acceptance of emotions. It seems we are expected to wallow in lukewarm fluids that rob us of personality. Perhaps that’s true of the Hallmark version of friendship which ends with a final kiss that defines those short-always-turns-out-perfectly videos. But real life family, real life love is considerably more challenging. We don’t think of Mary or Joseph, for that matter, ever questioning God’s will. Yet even a flippant study of the Hebrew Scriptures (what we mistakenly name the "Old Testament" as if it were a thing of the past) will show us a whole series of prophets who cry out to God, "What on earth do you want? Why are you so hard on us?" And who can think of Mary as a human mother without considering her questions not only in the temple but in his ministry, in his miracles, in his statement about "who is my mother?" and his unwillingness to save himself?

True love begins in the family. Real love discovers in the other a wonder, a mysterious presence, a treasure worth everything one can possess or hope to achieve. Such love does not deny or shift blame for evil done. Real love doesn’t deny weakness, evil, or harm done to others. It is love which discovers, finds, and holds onto the mystery of person. Real love never denies evil committed. Nor does it dwell on shame brought onto the family. It continues to focus on the love of the person while begging for his repentance and acceptance of responsibility. But love is never withdrawn. Love never excuses either. It searches for and finds that which is wonderful, that which is so filled with mystery. Christian family love carries with it the necessity of listening closely to discover, to welcome, and to love unconditionally the person. Love is not self-centered. Love does not seek gain from its movement. It lifts up; it understands something of the other and in that understanding affirms the wonder of person. In love accepted, we find and discover what we were created to be. And in our faith tradition what we discover is the image and likeness of our creator resident in our person ------ and in the persons of our brothers and sisters and our parents and grandparents and in all of our extended family. When we love them we enable them to search out their personal meaning and purpose in life. The freedom that comes with love-extended allows us to slip the bonds of sin that reach out to entrap us in despair and loneliness.

That is the ideal family: a family that cherishes love of the other more than control, more than discipline, more than fame, fortune, and power. Pride in family is about the wonder of the person and not possessions, prestige, or power. Be assured, love is permanent all the rest is so easily forgotten, lost, or stolen.

May we grow in this coming year as loving families and listen and apply the words of Paul.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE HOLY FAMILY, A REAL FAMILY (C)

I haven’t always looked forward to the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family. As a boy growing up, I heard a sermon every year on the virtues of ‘the holy family of Nazareth’ which left me feeling that my good but imperfect family was simply not in the same league.

Pictures and statues of the Holy Family only reinforced the distance I felt between their family and mine. In their simple but immaculate home, there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Joseph, Mary and Jesus seemed so calm and peaceful and unruffled. They looked like they never had an argument, a disagreement, or even a misunderstanding. They didn’t seem to have any money worries or any fears for their safety or their future or anything else. Fortunately the bible stories about the childhood of Jesus tell us something quite different and bring us down to earth with a thud. This is particularly true with today’s story about the loss of the child Jesus.

Many of you are parents. No doubt you’ve had the anguish of losing a child, if only for a few minutes. The child was with you at the shopping centre. You turned round for a moment to look at something in a window or on a shelf, and when you turned back, your little one had wandered off, without a trace. You felt real fear for your child’s safety. You felt as if your heart was going to break. In your panic you might even have thought your precious little one might have been stolen from you.

Jesus goes missing for much longer, for three whole days. If this happened today, his parents might have been charged with child neglect. How could it have happened? In those days, the men on pilgrimage walked with the men, and the women with the women. Only in the evening would the two groups come together. It seemed that Mary assumed that the boy was travelling with his father, and Joseph assumed that the boy was with his mother. A case of family misunderstanding! After travelling a whole day, then, Joseph and Mary discover that their child has gone off on his own. They go looking for him all along the road back to Jerusalem. Only two days later do they find him in the Temple of the city, sitting with the teachers, listening to them and questioning them.

The text says they were ‘overcome’ when they saw him? I wonder what exactly that word ‘overcome’ means. Were they crying? Were they annoyed? Were they angry? What Mary says to him suggests they were exasperated: ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ His reply does nothing to reassure and settle them down: ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ We’re told that ‘they did not understand what he meant.’ Maybe his words even came across to them as a bit of brat behaviour, a cheeky back-answer from a precocious child?

When I focus on the details of what Luke actually tells us in his stories of the child Jesus, and when I read the bits between the lines, I can feel quite close to the Holy Family of Nazareth. They are real people, after all. They had their ups and downs as a family, just like your family and mine. They had their problems, they had their struggles, and they had their challenges, just like your family and mine. But they survived as a family, just like yours and mine. They survived, because there was enough love, enough acceptance, and enough forgiveness left in their relationships, and enough trust in both God and one another.

In conclusion, let me illustrate this with a true story about how one particular family faced a real challenge which came their way. I quote the mother’s actual words (as she has stated them):

Our youngest daughter became pregnant (out of wedlock) and for our family this last twelve months was make-or-break time, emotionally, physically and faith-wise. But with God’s help and grace we have all come through this crisis in one piece. From anger to acceptance. From disappointment to unconditional love. From betrayal to peace. From hurt to holding this precious baby, the joy of all our lives now. God certainly moves in mysterious ways, and while this is not how we wanted to have our grandchildren, this little child of God is loved by all.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John

 


 

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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

Baptism of the Lord EPIPHANY HOLY FAMILY ADVENT 4 ADVENT 3 ADVENT 2


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