Fr Adrian's Homily
Year B 2020
Fr Adrian Farrelly
A story is told of a woman with a family of six children going to confession. A number of the sins she confessed concerned loss of patience expressed in cutting words to her sons and daughters, upbraiding her husband for not doing more to assist with the rearing of the children, neglecting her prayers and the like. The priest offered some words of encouragement and congratulations on the way she fulfilled the role entrusted her and as a penance asked her to pray to the holy family and Mary in particular for additional graces. She accepted the penance without comment but interiorly thought what would Mary know that could help her. Mary had one child and he was divine.
Well may we wonder what we can learn from Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The opening prayer spoke of God being pleased to give us the shining example of the holy family so we might imitate them in the practising the virtues of family life and in the bond of charity.
Their starting point and ours is trust in God, Father, Son and Spirit, from whom life and love emerge. The creation story in Genesis begins with Adam and Eve, the ones we call our first parents, the first family. Being alone is something we can cope with but we are not created to be alone. Companionship and the loving giving of ourselves to each other is God’s original blessing. From that union comes new life and our identity.
Abraham and Sarah are treasured in the faith story of Jews, Christians and Muslims. They had given up hope of having a family of their own. Even so they were still attentive to God speaking to them and promising they would have more descendants than they could imagine. They journeyed from their homeland, from all that was familiar, to an unknown destination. Their destination was not known, but the One who walked with them was known and trusted. Especially when asked to sacrifice their loved son they trusted and saw the promise fulfilled.
Families in our western societies come in all shapes and sizes. Many reflect what is prayed in the psalm of today’s mass. A married man and woman with children gathered around the family table. For others who never married but still had children identify as family. Other family units contend with the breakdown of the relationship of the couple who had the children and now struggle on as best they can. Yet other family units are led by same sex couples in registered or unregistered relationships with children being conceived and brought to birth in an array of arrangements as of themselves conception of children is not possible. Other couples for whatever reason have not been blessed with children but still see themselves families. Other cultures embrace other forms of family.
The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was unique as all families are. With the conception of Jesus, the hopes and dreams Joseph and Mary had of married life and family changed dramatically. Their love for each other was never physically consummated, but the love and affection they had for each other enabled them to protect their infant son when danger threatened and they sought asylum in Egypt. They raised him as a devout Jew with a love of the prophets, the psalms and the law. They worried about him as a teenager when he stayed behind in the temple without letting them know and then puzzled them with his open-eyed comment: “didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?” They worried about him as an adult wondering if he was out of his mind as the course of his ministry took him into headlong conflict with the authorities. His mother grieved for him as he died, shamed as a criminal, undergoing what no parents wants – to see a child die before them.
Never let the word “holy” fool you into thinking that the “holy Family” did not wrestle with issues as we do. Those who are close to God feel more acutely the pains of the world than those who do everything they can to avoid suffering. The holy do not go looking for suffering but face it with trust that God is always with them. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering he could see waiting for him would be taken away but finished his prayer with the prayer: not my will, but your (the Father’s) will be done.
Today we thank God for the blessings which come from our experience of family. We belong to them and with them. We did not choose them as we chose our friends. God has given us to each other. Within the family we learn who we are, our basic identity. We learn how to love and forgive. We learn how to give ourselves to another without expecting payment. We are with our other selves.
We pray that Jesus, Mary and Joseph will bless our families with the deep trust in God’s love that they had.