Deacon Stu Dobson’s Homily
Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday, December 26, 2021
Sm 1:20-28; Ps 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10; 1Jn 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52 (year C)
Perfection, and no I am not referring to our Christmas celebrations yesterday, I am referring to the perfect family we are celebrating today. The Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The ones we have been looking at in our nativity scenes for the last month. That one family, who had so little that they had to birth their child in a stable, alongside all the animals. Joseph could have easily walked away, in fact he contemplated doing so, but God intervened and sent an Angel to Joseph. Joseph listened and became obedient to God’s will. And Mary herself, a teenager, pregnant with a child that was not of the one she was betrothed to, also listened to an angel and became obedient to God’s will. As we gaze upon that scene, it is hard to imagine, that out of something so imperfect, so messy, so poor, came the perfect, the Christ child and a family so wonderfully made. So perfect and a sight to behold. It makes me want to keep our nativity scene up year-round as a reminder.
Yet even in our own imperfection as a family unit, we can look at the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to understand what a family life could be like. As we listened to St. Luke today in the Gospel, I am pretty sure we could all relate. Imagine being out at a large gathering with many other people from our town, and with many relatives whom we all trusted. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that Jesus, or our own child, could be left behind. We could assume He got swept up in the excitement and was hanging out with His friends. But then the parental instinct kicked in, and Mary panicked, where is He? It took three days to find Him and His response to them is, “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?”
But this is Jesus we are talking about, and while the angels had explained to Joseph and Mary that Jesus was the Son of God, Mary was still perplexed at what He meant. It does not say what Joseph and Mary said back to Him, but it does say Jesus came home with them and was obedient. Even the Son of God knew to obey His parents. As I told my kids when they were young, He was grounded. The next time you hear about Jesus is during His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. That is probably about 19 years later. So, kids, remember that when you get grounded for a week, that is nothing; Jesus was grounded for 19 years!
However, what a great lesson for us, not only to be obedient to those who know what is best for us, but to see the example Mary and Joseph gave by listening to God, loving their son and giving Him the proper guidance He needed. While Mary and Joseph may not have understood at the time what Jesus meant, they trusted that God’s plan told to them by the Angels, would be fulfilled. They accepted all that was told to them in faith, that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
Jesus’ obedience did not stop there. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, toward the end of His earthly life, Jesus was obedient, praying to God, “not thine, but your will be done.” Obedience to God starts very early on for man, starting in the Garden of Eden. But it is hard, and Adam and Eve could not do it and started that whole cycle of sin and repentance. It continues on throughout the Old Testament in the constant cycle of believe in God, fall away into sin, repent and return. As a professor of mine once said, it is the endless washing cycle, wash, rinse, spin dry and repeat, endlessly. That is, until Jesus came to end the vicious cycle.
Raising a family is not easy, especially now, and it is even harder if one, or both, of the parents are not around. My heart aches for those struggling, either financially, physically, or spiritually while trying to raise a family. We all cannot be a perfect family like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but if we look at the message Luke gives us today, it is one of hope, one of love, and one of forgiveness. I love the statue here of St. Joseph and the baby Jesus, because every time I gaze upon it, I see a man who absolutely loves his son and is not afraid to show it. It reminds us of how precious our children are, true gifts from God, and how much they need us to guide them through life.
But it is not easy with all the earthly distractions today and we struggle. However, as I said, we have hope, all we have to do is listen to God and be obedient to His plan for us. Listen to Him and follow Him even when we may not understand the path we are going down; like Mary and Joseph did with Jesus. As parents, we need to be understanding, loving, and caring towards our children. That does not mean we roll over to every one of their wishes, it means we look back to God for His guidance, His love, and our obedience to Him. And then, carry this on to our own children as we nurture them and build them up so they, too, can advance in wisdom and grace, just like Jesus did. And oh, I would not suggest grounding them for 19 years, but a little alone time with the Lord contemplating how He began his life in a manger, and how He, Mary and Joseph were obedient to God’s plan, never hurt anyone.