Homily — Holy Family MMVII Dec. 30, 2007

Homily — Holy Family MMVII                Dec. 30, 2007

In today’s Gospel we meet two very different families, the family of Joseph of Nazareth and the family of Herod the Great.

Joseph’s family begins in a lowly cattle stable in little town of Bethlehem, Herod’s family in an opulent palace in the great city of Jerusalem.   But the main difference in the two families isn’t material wealth, but rather, who’s in charge:   In Joseph’s Family, God the Father is the supreme Lord over the Household.   But in King Herod’s family, King Herod is the supreme Lord over the Household.

And from these two families we can learn what makes for a Holy Family and what makes for an unholy Family.

Let’s look first at the Holy Family.  Every Holy Family should be headed up by a holy Husband and Father.  He is to rule over his family not in a strong armed, domineering and demeaning way, but he rather is to be a leader in the ways of virtue and holiness.

The father should set the example to his wife and children of, as St. Paul says, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.  He also needs to lead the family in the practice of the faith.  God will hold husbands and fathers to a strict accounting on the Christian example they’ve shown to their families on judgment day.

And the Gospels show us that St. Joseph was a shining example of a husband and father, in his faithfulness to his marriage vows, in his courage and hard work in protecting and providing for his family, and in the way he puts God’s will and the needs of his wife and child before his own desires.

Certainly however, Joseph’s vocation was made easier by the love and affection given to him by his wife and child.   Wives and Mothers of families certainly also need to be good examples to their husbands and children of Christian discipleship, as Mary certainly was.

And children also need to do their part in families in order for them to be truly Holy Families that give glory to God.   As the first reading from Sirach says, “the child who honors his father is heard when he prays.”  and “the son or daughter who reveres his mother stores up riches”.   And the Gospels show Jesus as a child and teenager being obedient to Joseph and Mary at their home at Nazareth.

Such is the model Holy Family, that every Christian family needs to try and imitate.

But now let’s take a brief look at the other family in today’s Gospel, the family of King Herod the Great.   Unlike St. Joseph, King Herod wasn’t very faithful to his first wife, Doris.  He dumped her for a wife that would give him better political connections.  But then he had this 2nd wife killed in a fit of passion because he suspected her of adultery (which I guess was OK for him to do, but not for her).

King Herod ended up going through several other wives and having nine sons, most of which he either killed, disinherited or banished from the country.  (Augustus Ceasar is reported to have said “I would sooner be Herod’s pig than his son.”)   But one of his favorite sons, also named Herod, he appointed ruler of Northern Israel upon his death.  This was the Herod who married his brother’s sister (who was also his father’s grand daughter), and gave her John the Baptist’s head on a platter after his step daughter did a seductive dance before him at a party.

What a family!  But even to the families of the world like Herod’s, the Baby Jesus offers the potential to be converted, by God’s grace, into a Holy Family.  And the tragedy for King Herod’s son Herod was that the Gospels say that he liked hearing John the Baptist preach; it appeared that God’s grace was beginning to touch his heart.  Perhaps had he not put himself in such occasions of sin, not surrounded himself with wine, women and song, perhaps he would have eventually been baptized by John and brought the Gospel of Christ to his other family members.  But unfortunately, Herod Junior chose otherwise.  May it not be the case for us!
On this Feast of the Holy Family, may Jesus Mary and Joseph bless and strengthen all families of the world, and help them to be places where the peace and love of the Newborn Jesus are found in abundance.

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