Holy Family - C:

 Introduction by the Celebrant
(Liturgical Prayers of the day are included at the end)

A. In The House Of The Father

It may come as a real surprise to us to hear Jesus ask Mary and Joseph: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be where my Father is?" Even Joseph and Mary had still to learn and to grow in their faith. Like the Holy Family, our families and each of us have also to grow in the faith. Perhaps it is through painful trials like the one of Mary and Joseph that our faith may become mature. We too are asked: Did you not know...?
B. Busy With The Father's Affairs

It is perhaps hard for us to imagine that Jesus, God's own Son, was really human, that he grew up not only physically but matured as a person and discovered little by little who he was. Of course, the whole Holy Family sought to do the will of God but we see Jesus affirm today that he has become aware that he is especially close to the Father and that God's loving will is all that matters. Isn't that all that matters for us, too, and should also we not grow closer to God? Let Jesus here in this Eucharist help us to become mature in God's love.
 

Background:

As was said last week, the Christmas stories might not be true in all their details but they are True in the sense that they represent a very special intervention of God in the human condition, a revolution indeed because it revealed to us just how much God loves us, one that, as G.K. Chesterton said, turned the world upside down and, astonishingly, when viewed from that perspective the world made sense. 

 God, in the words of the Irish Dominican poet, Paul Murray, loves us so much that if we should cease to exist, he would die of sadness. The Christmas stories reveal to us that God loved Her human children so much that He took on human form so that he could show us how to live and how to die, even walking with us down to the valley of death itself.  

The stories today tell us that even from the beginning it was not easy to be the special light of the world. Jesus was under threat all his life. The threats would finally catch up with Him as they catch up with all of us. But from Christmas we learn that finally the darkness can never put out the light.
 
We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom.  A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins.  On the other hand, if the husband and the wife -- as in a confessional -- are ready to admit their own faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” Thus we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented in TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle. 

Reflections:

Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today in the streets of big cities, fighting the cold and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in a prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.
 
General comments 

Here is a highly symbolic story. We can read it from Jesus’ point of view or from that of his parents.
We can divide the story into two parts – verses 41 to 50, and verses 51 and 52 – and meditate on each separately.  Taken together, however, and understood as complementing each other, they give us a balanced picture of the role of authority in human life.
 

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John Littleton

The family is universally regarded as the nucleus or basic unit of society, whether secular or religious. It provides the foundation for the introduction of individual human beings to the wider community and society. Thus the family acts as a buffer or intermediary between individuals and the groups they join. This is why the family is important.

There are different understandings of what exactly the human family is and how it is structured. Traditionally, at least in Western civilisation, the family has been defined as a group of persons who are related by marriage or blood and which typically includes a mother, father and children. The group lives and works together for the common good of all the members and the relationships between members are central — the family offering security and support which nurtures the self-esteem and appreciates the dignity of each member.

Therefore, the family transmits a sense of belonging and its values to the members. The specifically Catholic understanding of the family maintains that the marriage between one woman and one man, which is at its core, is a sacrament which is celebrated and lived for life. Not surprisingly, then, marriage is regarded as being permanent and indissoluble.

However, there are many broken marriages in our society where one spouse and the children live apart from and are sometimes unsupported by the other spouse. Consequently, some children are reared in homes in which the father or the mother is absent or only occasionally present because of separation or divorce. Some family structures are made even more complicated by second or subsequent relationships which are now a common feature of society. The number of single-parent (that is, unmarried as distinct from widowed) families continues to increase. Sometimes children may not be aware of their father’s identity. Obviously these family units are not within the parameters of the traditional family image.

A multitude of factors contributes to this changing situation. Life in modern society is particularly stressful. There is a general acknowledgement of society’s increased demands on the family unit and the resulting increase in anxiety levels. Economic factors such as unemployment and poverty contribute immensely to the pressures on family stability, while emigration compels families to separate.

There are also contributing social factors. High levels of violence result in court convictions and prison sentences which threaten family structures and relationships. Domestic violence in its various forms — physical, mental and emotional — has devastating effects on most family members. Certain groups within society, such as the homeless and short-term fostered, rarely experience continuous family living. Others, perhaps through personal choice or because of their age or state of health or vocation, live alone or in community groups. In addition, religious faith is increasingly less important in the lives of many people.

There is an urgent need to renew family life. Research indicates that, when family members live together in harmony, the home provides the best environment for both social and faith development. That is why the family home may be accurately described as the domestic church. We read in Luke’s Gospel that, in the family home in Nazareth, Jesus ‘increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour’ (Luke 2:52) with God and other people. On the Feast of the Holy Family we pray and work for the renewal of family life in our Church and in society.

Meditation

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. (Luke 2:46-47)

Thomas O’Loughlin 

Homily Notes 

1. One of the differences between being a follower of the Christ and being a follower of a philosophy or a religious guru is that we are devoted to a person, not to a set of ideas. We are interested in Jesus because he is the truth, not simply because he is the messenger. For Christians the messenger is the mes­sage; and the messenger is Jesus. We believe we are brought into the Father’s kingdom by the Son, not because we adhere to anything that might be said to be Jesus’s religious wisdom. Indeed, when one counts up the verses in the gospels that could be said to be Jesus’s teaching, and compare it with the number devoted to his life and the events of his life, it be­comes abundantly clear that the kerygma is about the person of Jesus, of which what he taught is just a part. God’s ulti­mate revelation is a person, and not either a set of instruc­tions or a body of philosophy. I am always surprised at the reaction of non-Christians (and indeed of fundamentalist Christians who think of God’s revelation as ‘the bible’) when I ask them to bear in mind that Jesus is the only founder of a major religion who left no writings – and indeed that the only reference we have to his writing anything was with his finger in sand and we do not know what he wrote! The reac­tion is usually one of complete shock: how can you found a great world religion and not write a book of wisdom. The nearest we come is a collection of sayings written down by his followers of which we have only an indirect record and over which we have been arguing as to the form and mean­ing ever since.

2. If it is the person that is the message, then at no point is this more obviously the case than when Jesus was an infant, long before he could be a wise, kind rabbi able to lead a band of disciples. Such devotion to the infant Saviour has been a fea­ture of Christianity down the centuries. It must have been al­ready present at the time Matthew preached his gospel (last decades of the first century) for he has the magi offer gifts to the infant and fall down and worship the infant. We see it even more plainly in the second century with the Protoevangelium ofJames, and it continues right up to the early twentieth century with devotions such as to the Infant of Prague or in religious names such as St Therese of the Child Jesus. It has fallen below the horizon in recent decades for a variety of reasons, yet it is in devotion to the infant we see some of the basic themes of our christology. Today is one day in the liturgical year when this theme of devotion to the child Jesus can be explored while being in harmony with the over­all theme of day.

3. We worship Jesus because in his humanity – humanity with all the vulnerability of a child – we see our saviour. The in­fant’s coming among us is the good news of God being close to his people. Jesus is Emmanuel. We as his disciples, with our strength and wisdom and riches, must be prepared to lay it at his feet.

4. We can romantically idealize childhood or we can see child­hood as really only the privation of adulthood. Most societies tend towards the latter view; contemporary western society tends toward the romanticisation of childhood. Devotion to the child Jesus is neither one nor other of these attitudes, but the recognition in prayer that God came among us in every aspect of our humanity. Jesus is our gateway to the Father, not some set of abstractions or practices that we claim to de­rive from him.

5. It is easy to visit the crib if we do so to show it off to the child­ren: the children wonder at the magical scene, the parents enjoy their children’s wonder. It is much harder for us as adults to recapture the wonder of the crib as a visible expres­sion of the wonder of the incarnation:
In the wonder of the incarnation,
your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory.
In him we see our God made visible
And so are caught up in the love
of the God we cannot see.

6. It is easy to bring the children ‘to see the crib’; it is much harder for us to pray there – for the crib to cease to be a sim­ple model and for it to become an icon to focus our worship. Yet unless we can find the means to pray at the crib – a phys­ical reality functioning sacramentally – and there worship the child Jesus, we cannot discover true humility, nor under­stand the adult Jesus when he said: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the king­dom of God like a child shall not enter it’ (Mk 10:14-5/ Lk 18­16-17).

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Prayer Reflection

Lord, we pray today for all those involved in the work of education
- parents, teachers, youth leaders, church ministers.
Young people come to stay with us and live under our authority for a time,
Increasing in wisdom, in stature and in favour with you and with men and women.
But they are not ours.
You are their father and they must be busy about your affairs.
Some have unusual vocations – in the Church perhaps, or in the arts, or in politics.
At times we will feel we have lost them
and we will be overcome with worry as we spend days looking for them.
Then, quite unexpectedly, we find them, at ease in their temple,
asking and answering questions,
quite surprised that we should be looking for them,
while we remain perplexed at what it all means.
Lord, bringing up children is a lofty calling;
Help us, like Mary and Joseph, to be faithful to it.

It may be that the salvation of the world lies with the maladjusted.” Martin Luther King
Lord, there are times in life when we must step out on our own,
knowing that dear ones will be very worried, looking for us,
wanting to bring us back to Nazareth where we can be subject to them.
Give us the grace to commit ourselves, like Jesus,
to what we know to be our Father’s business.

“The Church must be concerned not just with herself and her relationship of union with God,
but with human beings as they really are today.”
Pope Paul VI concluding the Second Vatican Council, December 1965
Lord, as a Church we tend to remain within our concerns,
safe in Nazareth where we know the rules of the game,
who is subject to whom,
and we can feel sure we are growing in wisdom, in stature,
and in favour with God and with the influential people in society.
We pray that your Church may take the risk of being lost for days at a time,
even though its leaders are overcome with worry,
so that Jesus can be among the learned people of our time,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and modern generations, like previous ones, can be astounded
by the wisdom of his message and of the replies he brings to the problems of our time.

“Only one ship is seeking us,
a black-sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
a huge and birdless silence. In her wake
no waters breed or break.”
West Indian poem
Lord, when we are young we have lofty goals for ourselves.
We are in Jerusalem, at the centre of things,
questioning the wisdom of our day
and astounding all by the intelligence of our replies.
Then another time comes when we find ourselves stagnant,
not going anywhere or achieving anything,
subject to the conventions and prejudices of society.
Teach us, Lord, that this too is a necessary stage
when, like Jesus in Nazareth, we can increase in wisdom,
in stature and in favour with you.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Today’s Gospel was probably a later addition to Luke’s Gospel, found in the rich oral tradition of stories told about Jesus.  Like many childhood stories of famous people, this one is retold because it shows signs in Jesus’ boyhood of the qualities that will emerge in his adulthood that will mark his life forever in history.  Luke clearly has the events of Holy Week in mind in the details he has included in the story: the journey to Jerusalem at Passover, the encounter with the teachers at the Temple, the three days Jesus is lost.
   
At the age of 12, a Jewish boy becomes a “son of the Law” -- he becomes personally responsible for following the Torah.  The faithful Jesus reveals himself as the perfect servant of his Father from the time of his first legal pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
  
It was the Jewish practice for teachers to conduct classes not in a lecture format but as an open discussion in which participants were encouraged to ask questions.  It is inaccurate to suggest, as old paintings suggest, that Jesus dominated the scene, overwhelming the teachers with the depth of his insights.  As Luke tells the story, Jesus was listening to the teachers and eagerly searching for knowledge in his questions like a highly motivated and interested student typically much older than the 12-year-old boy from Nazareth.
   
Luke reports that Mary “kept all these things in memory.”  Perhaps Mary confronted for the first time the reality that, although she was indeed his mother, her son did not belong to her.
HOMILY POINTS:
Today's feast is a celebration of family -- that unique nucleus of society that gives us life, nurture and support throughout our journey on earth.  Families are the first and best places for the love of God to come alive. 
In Matthew and Luke’s stories of Jesus birth and childhood (which were later additions to those Gospels, drawn from the many stories about Jesus’ life that were part of the early Christian oral tradition that had developed), life for the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is difficult and cruel: they are forced from their home; they are innocent victims of the political and social tensions of their time; they endure the suspicions of their own people when Mary's pregnancy is discovered; their child is born under the most difficult and terrifying of circumstances; they experience the agony of losing their beloved child.  And yet, through it all, their love and faithfulness to one another do not waver.  The Holy Family is a model for our families as we confront the many tensions and crises that threaten the stability, peace and unity that are the joys of being a family.
It is easy to welcome Jesus the innocent child of Christmas; much more difficult is to welcome Jesus, the humble Crucified of Holy Week and Easter.  Luke's Gospel of the Child Jesus reminds us that the crib is overshadowed by the cross, that this holy birth is the beginning of humankind's re-birth in the Resurrection. 
Jesus remains with us even when he seems most distant and farthest away, when he is nowhere to be found.  He is with us in the love and compassion of family and friends, in the forgiveness we receive and give, in the generosity and healing we make happen even in the simplest and most hidden ways.  
With Jesus, we must be about “the Father’s house,” bringing the justice, reconciliation and compassion won by the cross into our families and communities.

Imagine losing Jesus.
You work hard to provide for your family, but your work takes you away too many days and nights, and you lose Jesus.
You become distracted by all the demands placed on you; when you are finally able to look up, you lose Jesus.
You try to walk Jesus’ path, you want to live his Gospel — but you cut too many corners, you go along to get along one too many times, you take too many moral and ethical shortcuts, and you lose Jesus.
You assume that your position is the right one — because it works for you.  But by the time you realize that your position is not right but convenient, safe but not just, good for you but bad for the common good, you lose Jesus.
You experience a separation too great, a betrayal too painful, a grief too dark.   You lose Jesus.
God does not seem to hear you, so you stop praying.
Church becomes an empty cavern, so you disengage.
The darkness and cold of winter has gripped your spirit, so you fill the void in your soul any way you can — if only to forget for the moment.
You lose Jesus.
We know the anxiety and terror Mary and Joseph felt.
Where is Jesus?
But the reality is that while we may lose Jesus, Jesus is not lost to us.
He is there in our temples, traveling in our caravans, dwelling with our families.
All we have to do is look and we will find him.
[Suggested by Lauren F. Winner in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.]
 
In the promise of Emmanuel — “God with us” — God comes to make his dwelling in our midst in the person of Jesus.  Jesus remains with us even when he seems most distant and farthest away, when he is no where to be found.  He is with us in the love and compassion of family and friends, in the forgiveness we receive and give, in the generosity and healing we make happen even in the simplest and most hidden ways.   With the blessed assurance of his constant presence, let us seek out Jesus in every moment and experience and relationship of the New Year.  
 
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 ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Story:

Once upon a time there was this young man, Peter Patrick, who could hardly wait to go off to college. Starting half way through his junior year in high school, he decided that his family was ruining his life, almost every day. His father was a tyrant who didn’t know what it was like to be a teenager. His mother was a crab. His younger sister was a spy. His younger brother like a total dork – and a nuisance too. The summer before he want to college was sheer agony. He’d learned in one of his classes that some guy – he thought it was probably a German – said that Hell is other people. The guy was certainly right. Hell in fact is your family especially when you’re young.

So college began. It wasn’t as much fun as Peter Patrick had expected. In fact, it wasn’t any fun at all. He couldn’t find the way to his classes, his adviser was never in, he didn’t know where the mail boxes were, he didn’t figure out how to get his laundry done. The food was terrible. The teachers were creeps. The other students were dorks. The women were stuck-up. Some of his fellow freshmen were drunk every night of the week. The dorm smelled of vomit all the time. There was never any quiet to study, even if he wanted to. College, he finally admitted to himself, was a big mistake. Peter Patrick told his parents, when he called to ask for more money, that he loved it. College was great, college was wonderful. He wasn’t sure he could make it till Thanksgiving. He told all his friends that he loved college. They replied that they did too. It was wonderful to be on your own.

 He didn’t want to go back after Thanksgiving because Christmas was probably a couple of years away. At Christmas he acted like he was condemned man at death row. Finally a girl he knew named Sheila said to him, Petey Pat, you hate college like we all do because there’s no one there who loves us like our families did. Don’t try to fool me. Well, said Peter Patrick, what should I do? E-mail, said Sheila, who was very smart, that way you can talk to your parents and your siblings (she actually said siblings) every day. It will be almost like being home. So Peter Patrick got himself an e mail account and talked to his family every day. He said to Sheila the next time he saw her, the guy was wrong. Hell isn’t other people, Heaven is.  

1. Some years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article by Dr. Paul Ruskin on the "Stages of Aging." In the article, Dr. Ruskin described a case study he had presented to his students when teaching a class in medical school. He described the case study patient under his care like this:

"The patient neither speaks nor comprehends the spoken word. Sometimes she babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented about person, place, and time. She does, however, respond to her name... I have worked with her for the past six months, but she still shows complete disregard for her physical appearance and makes no effort to assist her own care. She must be fed, bathed, and clothed by others. 

"Because she has no teeth, her food must be pureed. Her shirt is usually soiled from almost incessant drooling. She does not walk. Her sleep pattern is erratic. Often she wakes in the middle of the night and her screaming awakens others. Most of the time she is friendly and happy, but several times a day she gets quite agitated without apparent cause. Then she wails until someone comes to comfort her."

 After presenting the class with this challenging case, Dr. Ruskin then asked his students if any of them would like to volunteer to take care of this person. No one volunteered. Then Dr. Ruskin said, "I'm surprised that none of you offered to help, because actually she is my favorite patient. I get immense pleasure from taking care of her and I am learning so much from her. She has taught me a depth of gratitude I never knew before. She has taught me the spirit of unwavering trust. And she has taught me the power of unconditional love." Then Dr. Ruskin said, "Let me show you her picture." He pulled out the picture and passed it around. It was the photo of his six-month-old baby daughter.
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2. Baptismal rituals are very different today than they were in the early church. There is a fourth-century rubric that instructs the bishop to enter the baptistery and give this command in a loud voice: "Take off your clothes." Whereupon our ancestors were immersed in the water of the font, with the men and women separated.  

Did you ever imagine that those words "Take off your clothes" were part of Christian worship?

Everyone knows the Hans Christian Andersen story of "The Emperor's New Clothes." A couple of smooth-talking swindlers convince an egotistical king that he has just purchased the most gorgeous, elaborate, royal suit of clothes ever stitched together by human hands. Only those who are "hopelessly stupid" or "unfit for their position" can't see the beautiful clothes.

In reality, of course, the weavers have stripped the Emperor naked and he is parading around in his birthday suit. Yet the Emperor is so convinced he is wearing royal robes that none of his servants or secretaries, cohorts or companions will dare tell him the truth. It is not until a little child blurts out the fact, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" that the Emperor sees and grasps his state of undress.

This week's Colossians text is like that child's voice. It tells us clearly what naked faith looks like, and describes the garments worn by a genuine community of Christ...
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 3. Christ in the Temple 

There is a famous oil painting called "Christ Teaching in The Temple." The painting gets it wrong. It comes from an era when religious people were still uneasy with the notion that Jesus was like the rest of us. In this picture he is standing in the midst of the elders looking very wise, obviously delivering a lecture. He is talking and pointing and they are listening. He had, no doubt, appeared to instruct them in the law, as if he knew what they didn't. But that's not what the text says. They found him, says Luke, "listening to (the teachers) and asking them questions." He was not the authority; he was the student. He was there to listen and learn. Now it is true that the religious leaders were impressed by how much he knew, and by how he answered their questions. But there is nothing in this text which indicates he was a precocious know it all.

Adapted from When It Is Dark Enough, Charles H. Bayer, CSS Publishing Lima, Ohio.
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4. Truth springs from argument amongst friends. 

Scottish philosopher David Hume 
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5. Significance of Things Eternal 

Parish ministers will tell you that people come to them speaking with regrets like these:

When I was young, my mother was going to read me a story, but she had to wax the bathroom floor and there wasn't time.
When I was young, my grandparents were going to come for Christmas, but they couldn't get someone to feed the dogs and my grandfather did not like the cold weather and besides they didn't have time.

When I was young, my father was going to listen to me read my essay on "What I Want To Be When I Grow Up," but there was Monday Night Football and there wasn't time.
When I was young, my father and I were going to go hiking in the Sierras, but at the last minute he had to fertilize the lawn and there wasn't time.

When I grew up and left home to be married, I was going to sit down with Mom and Dad and tell them I love them and would miss them, but my best man was honking the horn in front of my house so there wasn't time.

Into our hectic world, Jesus comes, and still invites us to exercise the spirit as well as the mind and the body. The best way we exercise the spirit is by giving attention to things of eternal significance, such as listening, loving, and learning from the least expected places.

Richard A. Wing
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6. School Is a Part of Life

A young woman named Donna who got good grades in high school was in her first year of college. She had done poorly on one of her courses. In an attempt to prepare her parents she wrote her mother, "If you see an unfamiliar letter on my report card, remember it's just my first initial. Signed, Donna." As the time neared for grades to be sent home, Donna began to worry. Her worst fears were confirmed one evening when her mother called her. Donna said, "Hi, Mom." Her mother replied coldly, "Hello, Frank."

School is part of life. For the Christian there are two kinds of education. There is education at school and on the job. And there is religious education about our faith. We have just celebrated Christmas. Unfortunately, we don't know much about the next few years in Jesus' life. We can imagine he lived in a home filled with love. We can imagine as a boy he worked with his father Joseph in the carpenter shop, learning a trade although Jesus' real vocation would surface in our lesson for today.

King Duncan

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 7. Growing Up Fast

Kids grow up awfully fast these days. It seems like one minute you are trying to encourage your child to go faster on his bicycle, to get up enough speed to stay balanced, and the next you are pleading with the same boy now at the wheel of a car, pleading with him to slow down and live. One minute you're urging a shy daughter to say hello to strangers, and the very next, you're trying to discourage her from responding to strangers on the Internet.
Jesus is growing up fast too. Here we are, less than a week from Christmas, from the baby lying in a manger. Now Jesus is already an adolescent wandering off on his own. Last week Jesus was "prophecy miraculously fulfilled." This week he is questioning the teachers of that very tradition.

The classical confessions of the church hold that Jesus is "fully human, fully God," and in today's familiar story from Luke, we can see both sides. Jesus, fully human, is growing up as all mortals must. In the process, Jesus has scared his parents half to death as all teen-agers do. Jesus is asking questions, as should we all, and he is listening to learn, as all we must. And in this story, we see the twelve-year old Jesus fully divine with everyone amazed at his understanding and his answers. We hear Jesus declaring his unique relationship with God the Father as only the Son can do.

Sid Burgess
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8. Small Things to Be Done with Great Love 

It took me a long while to hear this truth from Mother Teresa: "There are no big deals anymore, just small things to be done with great love." 

Most of this coming year will be spent in ordinary time. We enter into the season on the church calendar marked as "ordinary time." What a good prophetic note for the New Year: most of the good that will be done will be done in ordinary time, when no one is looking and no one will report it to the paper.  

Here comes the New Year, full of ordinary time. We will enter it ready to slug it out for the common good while no one is looking. In the middle of ordinary time, God comes with extraordinary moments that make all others bearable, believable, and worthwhile.

I have always thought that while our nation works out negotiations with other countries, like with North Korea, we only see the leaders in the news. But, if the whole story were revealed, we would see nameless people on both sides of the issue tirelessly speaking to each other through the night in order to work out an agreement. Leaders sit down and sign documents that were slugged out by unknowns in the night during ordinary time.
Richard A. Wing,

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9. Erma's New Year's Resolutions 

The late Erma Bombeck made these New Year's resolutions:  

1. I'm going to clean this dump just as soon as the kids grow up.
2. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
3. I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
4. I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
5. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
6. And just like last year...I am going to remember that my children need love the most when they deserve it the least. 

Erma Bombeck, Resolutions for a New Year
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10. Our Children Can Teach Us

Some years ago in a midwestern town a little boy was born blind. His mother and father were heartsick, but they struggled with his blindness the best they could. Like all such parents, they prayed and hoped for some miracle. They wanted so much for their son to be able to see. Then one day when the little boy was 5 years old, the community doctor told them that he had heard about a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who was specializing in a new surgical procedure that might just work for their son... that might just give their little boy his eyesight.

The parents became excited at the prospect, but when they investigated further and discovered the cost of the surgery and the travel and the hospital expense involved, they became deflated because they were not people of means at all. In fact, some would call them poor. But word got out in the community and their church rallied to help them. In a short period of time, the money was raised to send them to Boston for the surgery.

On the morning they were to leave for Boston, the little boy gathered his things together including his tattered little teddy bear. It had an ear chewed off, was missing an eye, and was bursting at the seams. His mother said, "Son, why don't you leave that old teddy bear at home? He's about worn out. Maybe we can buy you a new one in Boston or when we get back." But he said, "No, I need it."

So off to Boston they went. He held tightly to that teddy bear all the way. The surgeon sensed how important the teddy bear was to the little boy, so he allowed the boy to keep the bear with him throughout all the many examinations prior to surgery. On the morning of the surgery, the hospital staff brought in two surgical gowns - one for the little boy and a smaller version for the teddy bear - and off to the operating room they went... a little blind boy on a stretcher holding on dearly to his beloved teddy bear. 

The surgery went well. The doctor felt good about what they were able to accomplish. "I think he will be able to see," said the surgeon, "but we won't know for sure until we remove the bandages in a few days."

 Finally the day came for the doctor to remove the bandages. The nurses and interns stood with the parents as the surgeon slowly unwound the gauze from the boy's eyes. Miracle of miracles! The little boy could see! For the first time in his life... he saw his mother's face, he saw his dad and his doctor, he saw flowers and candy and balloons and the people who had cared for him. For the first time in his life, he saw his teddy bear. It was a joyous celebration!

When it came time for the boy to leave the hospital, his surgeon came into the room. The doctor had grown so attached to the little boy that he had to busy himself with those insignificant gestures that we... when we are trying to surmount a great wall of emotion. They said their good-byes with tears of joy all around... and then the doctor turned to leave. The little boy called him back...
 
When the time came for the boy to be discharged he had new clothes but the same bear.  The head surgeon approached the boy to say goodbye and the boy simply handed the bear to the doctor and said, Here doctor, I want to pay you for helping me. The doctor accepted the bear.

For months after that if you had gone to the tenth floor of the white building in the Mass
General Hospital Complex, you could have seen this teddy bear.  The doctor had placed it in a glass case in the corridor.  There it sat, one ear chewed, stuffing coming out and one eye missing.  Under the bear the doctor had placed his profession calling card and below his name was written, This is the highest fee I ever received for professional services rendered.”
The doctor had given a great gift to this child, the gift of sight.  The boy then offered to the doctor his most precious possession.  In accepting the bear the doctor allowed the little boy to experience the joy of giving.  

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11. Long Training:  
A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest.  She would like to know what this would require.  So the priest begins to explain:  "If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he'll have to study for eight years.  If he wants to become a Franciscan, he'll have to study for ten years.  If he wants to become a Jesuit, he'll have to study for fourteen years."  [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.]  The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. "Sign him up for that last one, Father -- he's a little slow!"    

12. Dying of loneliness:  

In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. "How are you?"' he asked her. "Not bad," she answered. "I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold." "You must be reasonably happy then?" he said. "No, I’m not," she said as she started to cry. "You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness." Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase, "I’m dying of loneliness." And the Pope concluded: "Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten" (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). 
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13. Cancer, heart disease and family relationship:
 
A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease.  The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city, expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise and kept close track of their cholesterol.  To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community.   This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac).  

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14. “Daddy, could you please sell me one hour of your time?” 

A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says, “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies, “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him, “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son's room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here's the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s readings have a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family life.

14. The Priest and the Bishop

A young priest went to his bishop with this complaint:
"I have great difficulty preaching. I cannot get the people's attention."
After stroking his chin His Excellency suggested: "Say something striking at the beginning of your homily."
"Could you give me an example?" begged the young priest.
"Well," suggested the bishop, "you might start like this: 'I am in love'; 'I am in love with a married woman'; 'Her name is Mary'".
Next Sunday the priest started his sermon thus:
"The bishop is in love'; He is in love with a married woman'.
After an embarrassing pause the priest continued: "But I have forgotten her name."

Msgr. Arthur Tonne - Jokes Priests Can Tell
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LITURGICAL PRAYERS: MASS 

Penitential Act

Are we still willing to grow in our faith?
Let us examine ourselves before the Lord.
(pause)
Lord Jesus, you accepted to live
under the authority of Mary and Joseph:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Jesus Christ, your mother pondered in her heart
the events happening in her life:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, with Mary and Joseph
you sought above everything
the will of the Father in heaven:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Lord, forgive us our sins
and our lack of understanding.
Make us mature in our faith and love.
Lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray
that the Lord Jesus may grow up in us
(pause)
God our Father,
we give you all thanks and praise
that you chose for your Son a human family.
Through the prayers and example
of Mary and Joseph,
may we too learn
to make room for Jesus in our life,
that he may grow up in us day after day
and make us more like him.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.

General Intercessions

With the Holy Family of Nazareth we trust in the Lord, who knows all our needs, and we ask him to bless all our human families. Let us say: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For the family of the Church, that it may be a mother and a home for all people in need, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For all married couples, that they may keep the freshness of their first love or rediscover it, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For all the families of the world, that they may keep growing in mutual appreciation and service, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For children and young people, that their parents may be to them grownups concerned about their growth and happiness, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For separated couples and their children, that they may meet warmhearted people whose understanding helps them to overcome the failures of their home life, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
• For our Christian communities, that as members of one family we may learn to carry each other's burdens and to share each other's joys, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
Father, we trust in you. May we not deny one another all the love you show us in Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.
Prayer over the Gifts
God our Father,
you invite us to share the family table
of Jesus your Son.
May the food and drink he gives us
change us into gifts to one another,
that we may become each other's
bread and wine, life and joy.
Let serving love and respect
be our offering to one another,
today and tomorrow and every day,
on account of your Son in our midst,
Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.
Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
Today we thank our Father for having given us the Holy Family as a model of loving service for our homes. May this Eucharist make us responsive to God's love.
Introduction to the Lord's Prayer

United before God as his sons and daughters,
we pray the prayer taught us
by his son, Jesus of Nazareth. R/ Our Father...
Deliver Us

Deliver us Lord, from every evil
and let the peace of Christ live
in our hearts and our homes.
Keep us from all that divides us
or encloses us within ourselves.
Give us compassion, gentleness, and patience,
that we may prepare in hope and joy
the full coming among us
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom...

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus the Lord,
who comes to unite us
as the sons and daughters of the Father.
Happy are we to be invited
at the family table of the Lord. R/ Lord, I am not worthy...
Prayer after Communion

God our Father,
Jesus your Son made himself near to us
in this Eucharistic celebration.
He has been here for us
approachable and available to all.
May he keep on living
in our homes and our communities.
Let him make us approachable
and available to one another,
even at the cost of personal discomfort
and, with Mary and Joseph,
ready for any task you may entrust to us.
For we can do everything
in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.
Blessing
It was good to be together
as the family of God's people
and to pray with the Holy Family of Nazareth
for what is dear to all of us:
our homes, our families,
the Christian community,
the family of our nation and people.
May God bless you all
and keep you united:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Go in the peace of the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.