December 29, 2019 — The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Today, as we continue our celebration of the Christmas season, we focus our attention in a special way on the Holy Family. This is a great time to thank God for the gift of family life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the family as the “domestic church,” so today’s feast is also a fitting time to consider the importance of the virtue of hospitality — a fundamental aspect of the stewardship way of life — within the context of our domestic churches.
Why is hospitality so important to a stewardship way of life, beginning with family life? Well, we can hardly expect our family members to pray together, study their faith, and serve others if we have a home where we are disconnected from each other or the atmosphere is stressful and tense. Of course there will be moments like this. But we must be intentional in creating homes where everyone feels cherished, accepted and important. We want our homes to be the place where we can get recharged and filled up to go out and bring love to everyone we encounter outside our home.
Today’s first and second readings are full of practical wisdom on how to create an atmosphere of true hospitality within our homes.
Our first reading, from the Book of Sirach, speaks of the blessings that will come when children give honor to their parents — both young children who respect the authority of their mothers and fathers, and adult children who lovingly care for older parents. These are the actions and attitudes that create an atmosphere of respect, tenderness and unity in the family; all key elements of hospitality.
Our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, gives still more specific instructions on fostering hospitality within our homes. Paul reminds us of our great dignity as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” This applies to every member of the family, from youngest to oldest and all those in between. In the daily drudge of family life it is important to remember that each one of us is cherished by God. We are not just fathers, mothers, children, grandparents; we are all also brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul’s instruction to “put on” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and forbearance towards each other is the best possible formula for family hospitality. Paul is reminding us that (especially in the messiness of family life) we won’t always feel the feelings of compassion, kindness, and so forth. What can we do? We can “put them on” — we can act in ways that a compassionate, kind, humble person would act. This will create a transformative atmosphere of hospitality within the home that will spill out in the family’s interactions with those outside the home.
Of course, this is not easy to do. But we can turn to the Holy Family for help.
Lest we think that the Holy Family is somehow unable to sympathize with our struggles, we see in our Gospel passage from Matthew that this Family was certainly not free from trials and stress; quite the contrary. The very life of the newborn Jesus was threatened by Herod’s extreme jealousy such that the family had to flee suddenly into a foreign land for protection until Herod’s death. Yet Mary and Joseph remained united and ever obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit for direction. Who better to turn to for help and inspiration for our own families?
Happy feast day to all families living a stewardship way of life!