Read Genesis 15:1-6,21:1-3, Ps. 128:1-5, Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2:22-40

“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; God’s favour was upon him.” (Luke 2:40)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family every Sunday after Christmas. Indeed, our celebration of Christ’s birthday will not be complete if we fail to recognise that Christ was born into a human family. Just as God designed man and woman to live together as a family from the beginning, God went the extra mile to ensure that Joseph was married to Mary so that the child Jesus would have a family.

Take away the family, and the human species would gradually go extinct. How? The family is to the human race what the womb is to a human being. The book of Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” What becomes of a child who is not adequately trained or grew up in a dysfunctional family? As the saying goes: “Charity begins at home.”

Truth be told. There are no perfect families. There are only human families, and humans have flaws, weaknesses and limitations. St. Paul would say: “The good I want to do, I don’t do it, but I end up doing the evil I don’t want.” You may not be happy about your family, but do not assume your family is the worst. It is with this understanding that our readings today offer us useful tips on how to improve the situation of our families.

1. Prayer is the Key
Our first reading is a conversation between God and Abram wherein we hear Abram asking God for the gift of a child. Abram had, over the years, developed a solid friendship with God to the extent that he, being a man, could speak to God freely. The prayer of Abram teaches us that prayer is always a conversation with God – a dialogue, not a monologue.

As we talk to God, let us try to listen to Him by reading the Bible daily. Another important lesson we learned from Abram’s prayer was his firm faith. We read: “And he believed the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Having prayed for your family, what are your expectations?

In today’s Second reading, we heard St. Paul admonishing us on the need for family prayers: “Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16). When last did you gather as a family to pray, sing psalms, hymns and other spiritual songs? When did you last call your family to admonish them on the Word of God? A family that prays together stays together.

Apart from praying together, you must always bring your family to Church. In today’s Gospel passage, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple and did what the custom required for Him. Of course, they both knew this child was not ordinary, yet they followed the law. Bring your children to the Church and make sure they pray, bring them to attend catechism classes, bring them to partake of the pious societies in the church, let them join the choir, the lay readers, the churchwardens, the mass servers, etc. When you get back home, ask them what they learned in Church.

2. Children are Gifts from God, Not Merely Products of Biology
One mistake we often make as parents is treating our children as our property. Once again, the story of Abram in today’s first reading emphasises this point. We read: “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” Let us learn to respect our children.

It is better to make your children love you rather than fear you. When they love you, they would divulge their deepest secrets to you and seek your advice, but when they only fear you, they would keep things away from you and seek advice from their peers instead. In today’s second reading, St. Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged.”

For whatever reason, you may love one child more than another but never show it. Know that all children are equally gifts from God. Avoid making the mistake of Jacob, whose love for Joseph made his brothers hatch a plan to sell him off. Love all your children equally.

3. Live by Example: Fear God; Put on Righteousness.
Our responsorial Psalm today sings: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways… your wife like a fruitful vine, your children like shoots of olive around your table.” There is always a connection between your spirituality and what happens in your household. Good things will come to your family if you are God-fearing and walk in the light.

St. Paul outlines particular virtues we need to have to make our families holy. These include compassion, kindness, humility and patience, forbearance and forgiveness, peacefulness and gratitude. Take, for instance, compassion, the ability to help one who is suffering or passing through some difficulty. When one is in trouble, the first question is: “Doesn’t he (or she) have a family?”

Can you imagine a family without kindness? Or a family where there is no forgiveness? Some brothers and sisters do not see eye to eye today because they refuse to forgive each other. When you refuse to forgive your family member, you create room for the devil to steal, kill and destroy your family. There is no family where they do not hurt or offend each other, but what sustains a holy family is their ability to forbear and overlook these offences constantly. Mary and Joseph felt bad when Jesus stayed behind in the temple, but they forgave Him instantly for causing them such inconvenience and took him home.

4. Make Your Marriage Work
Good marriages always produce excellent families. When there is something wrong with the union, it always has a ripple effect on the family, and when there is a breakdown of marital love and unity, it often brings about a broken family. St. Paul speaks to wives and husbands: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” St. Paul is not asking wives to become slaves to their husbands; instead, he emphasises that there cannot be two captains on a ship.

St. Paul continues: “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” To love a person is to respect that person and be willing to die for her just as Jesus Christ died for us. St. Paul says, “Do not be harsh with them”, which is another way of saying: “Learn how to control your temper.”

Know when to smile and diffuse an argument before it blows out of proportion. Learn to be emotionally intelligent; train yourself to always act with reason rather than emotions; never raise your hands or voice on your spouse. They may not be perfect, but rather than trying to change them, you can love them until their best comes out.

Conclusion: A Holy Family Requires Work and Sacrifice.
Growing up, we read many story books that ended with the phrase, “And they lived happily ever after.” Most of us often assume that after the wedding ceremony, everything suddenly falls into place by itself. This is not true. If your family is to be holy, prepare to do the hard work; be prayerful, fear God, live a virtuous life, be faithful to your marital vows, and love your spouse. Remember, no one can give what they do not have.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, renew my family in your grace and power. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (The Holy Family. Bible Study: Genesis 15:1-6,21:1-3, Ps. 128:1-5, Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2:22-40).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu