We belong to a natural and a supernatural family

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.

Colossians 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters: 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. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

Luke 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Today’s feast highlights Christmas as a celebration of the family. As Christians, we belong to a human family as well as God’s. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: ‘For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister and mother’ ” (CCC 2233). Hence we embrace both familial and communal relationships of which we have both natural and supernatural obligations.

At the natural level, as from the very beginning, family is the basic unity of society. It is from this structure that generations are nurtured and thrived; experiences are shared and knowledge is accumulated; customs are formed and traditions are passed on. It is evident that in the creation of man and woman, the fundamental nature of the human family is established in the plan of God (rf Gen 1:27). “In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation” (CCC 2205).

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Sirach spells out some good advice with regard to family duties and obligations. It is in the communion of family life that we are taught by both word and deed to fulfill these obligations. At the heart of our familial relationships is the virtue of obedience. First and foremost obedience is to the commandments of God. In taking their infant to Jerusalem to fulfill the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary show us that the virtue of obedience is best acquired by action performed in the spirit of faith and love for God. St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (Second Reading) also echoes this rule of obedience as the code in Christian households (rf Eph 5:21-28, 6:1-4; 1 Pet 3:1-2).

At the supernatural level, “the Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion . . . it is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2205). Thus the communion of the Holy Trinity is reflected and experienced through the bond of love in our intimate family relationships. But this bond is not only limited to our own family, it is also in the life of our parish family; for just as natural family is the basic unit of society, parish is the basic unit of God’s family. As we are encouraged to imitate the virtues of the Holy Family and apply them vertically to our own family, we should also broaden them horizontally to God’s family, our spiritual family.

The primary obligation towards our parish family is charity. The deeper is our spirit of charity, the deeper is our union with God. This is especially true when charity is done in the imitation of the life of Jesus, that is, in the spirit of self-giving, humility and docility (rf Rom 15:1-7; Eph 4:1-6; Heb 13:1-3). The example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, each individually and collectively, naturally and spiritually, is our model. As we continue to celebrate the Christmas Octave, let us pray for families today which are progressively challenged by secular forces and authorities whose values are often contrary to Christian beliefs and practices. Let us never tired of giving witness to our faith in our own family and in God’s family. Let us lead a life of holiness as that of the Holy Family of Nazareth, making Christian virtues a visible reality.

Posted: December 27, 2020

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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