AD SENSE

Holy Family 2019 - Homilies and Stories

A Video at the end
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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?” (Fr. Munachi)
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

In these days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day we as the People of God spend time reflecting on just what the Christmas mystery tells us about God. We reflect that his Son has come among us: born as an infant at a particular moment in time, in a particular place, in a particular culture — this is Jesus our brother. Like each of us he had a unique set of relationships: with Mary, with Joseph, with the other people who lived around him. But with us, his followers, he established another unique relationship by making each of us a child of God. Let us call to mind how we have behaved as daughters and sons of the Father and how we may have injured our brothers and sisters.

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Michel de Verteuil
Textual Comments

This passage is in three sections; they are all important for us, and we therefore need to look at them individually. 

In the first section Joseph is inspired by “an angel of the Lord”. He is told in a dream that he must “get up” at once, and take “the child and his mother with him”. They “escaped into Egypt” and stayed there until he was told, once again in a dream, that he could move back home to Israel. This was to save Jesus from being put to death by order of Herod who was then king of Israel. Herod’s purpose was to “search for the child”, and put him to death. We read about this search for Jesus later in the text, in verses 16 to 18, and we see Herod’s anger taken out on all who were born at that time.

The text brings out very well Matthew’s testimony to St Joseph. He was obedient to the word of the Lord – it did not really matter how it came to him.

Joseph stayed in Egypt for a long time. He waited “until Herod was dead”. This occurred around the year 4 AD, some years after the sad incident at Bethlehem.

According to Matthew, God called the young Messiah out of the land of Egypt, and the prophet reminds us of that. This was the country where his ancestors had lived and been persecuted for years. He was now to re-enact their destiny.

The evangelist then illustrates his narrative with a text found in the Bible. The prophet Hosea spoke of Israel as a child who was dearly loved by his heavenly Father. It was said of him, “When Israel was a child, I loved him and I called my son out of Egypt.” This is what happened to Jesus. He was God’s beloved Son and the Father called him “out of Egypt”.

We remember now situations in our own families. We too must allow ourselves, like Joseph, to be guided by God in all he wants us to do – for ourselves, and to help others we meet. Sometimes God will appear to us in a dream. Usually however it will be by some other intervention. It could be through friends who talk to us, or others we meet in our daily living.

In the second part of the passage, Matthew tells us that after Herod died, the angel appeared to Joseph once more. As usual it was “in a dream”. He told Joseph to go back to the land of Israel, because “those who wanted him killed are now dead”.

Joseph responded immediately. He “got up” (notice the same words used as before) and he took the child and his mother and they headed back to Israel.

Joseph then learnt that Herod had bequeathed part of his country to his son, King Archelaus, who was now the ruler of the territory. Joseph was naturally afraid of the new king and so “was afraid to go there”.  Once more, he was “warned in a dream” and he took the decision to go to Galilee, which was ruled by Herod’s son, Herod Antipas. There Joseph decided to settle in a little town called Nazareth.

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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

Has there been disagreement in any of our homes this Christmas? Has anyone in our family been jealous, unkind, intolerant, and perhaps even violent? Have some of us felt upset or rejected during the last few days? Many of us can answer ‘Yes’ to at least one of these questions.

This is very natural, given the stress of coping with extra people and visitors, and the additional work involved during this festive season, although it would not happen if everyone was celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Emphasising the preparations and the trimmings of Christmas usually serves to undermine our understanding of the magnificent truth that God became human and lived among us, which is what we are invited to think about on this feast.

Ideally, then, we would not focus on family antagonisms or anything else that would disrupt our peace of mind and soul. But such human failings are one reason why we need the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, because the feast provides an opportunity to reflect on our family lives.

We are reminded that the essence of good family and community life is respect. We are challenged to cherish and honour other family members. Experience teaches us that genuine family life exists only when everyone is sincere, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient and forgiving.

These are the qualities that make family life pleasant and worthwhile. They ultimately derive from the authentic love that we have for God and one another. When family members live together in harmony, the home unquestionably provides the best environment for personal and communal faith development. Hence the home is often described as the domestic church.

At Christmas, families gather and exchange gifts. Christmas is meant to be a time of happiness and celebration. It ought to be a time of peace and goodwill. It would be wonderful if we could sustain this goodwill. Family life would thrive if everyone worked to make living together more enjoyable and refreshing.

Sadly, however, as Christmas and the Christmas holidays end, many of us will be tired, frustrated and angry. Some will have feelings of regret. Others will have only memories of desertion and violence. Celebrating Christ’s birth will have been meaningless. 

However, it is not too late to change. We can try to be truly human together as we encourage and influence one another in the name of Jesus. For instance, there may be a member of our family with whom we could be more patient. We could make a start with this person, imitating the self-sacrificing love of Christ and the example of the saints, by being kind to that awkward relative. After all, great things are often achieved in small ways.

The same applies outside the boundaries of our human families. We, in the Church, are sisters and brothers in Jesus, and children of God our heavenly Father. Being members of God’s family, we attempt to help and strengthen other people. Again, we can model ourselves on the Holy Family and try to live in harmony and peace.

Therefore, the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we are part of a human family and, equally, that we belong to God’s family. In each case there are privileges and responsibilities. In our human families and in God’s family, the Church, we work out our salvation together — as women, men and children living and working in love and peace. Let each one of us think of ways to make life more pleasant for other members in our family, and let us begin again today.

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Homily notes

1. Preaching immediately after Christmas seems to be just the straw that breaks the camel’s back: we have worked hard to prepare for Christmas Day, now there is a sense of a lull. This is perfectly natural because after a moment of stressed solemn time, there is the necessary moment of quiet. This time between Christmas and New Year is the time when in the liturgy we have the octave: the time for letting the mystery of Christmas slowly sink in. And this reflective, letting it sink in slowly quality must dominate the homily today. Moreover, many people are still away who are normally in the congregation, while there may still be visitors from elsewhere. So it does not feel like a normal Sunday morning. 

2. Moreover, there are other problems with preaching on this feast. First, it can draw out a mawkish piety: the lovely ideal family which will seem so far distant as to be irrelevant to many in the community whose relationships are far from ideal or for whom the Christmas period has been one of extra stress. Musing on families in a general way or speculating on a Galilean peasant family’s life two millennia ago may seem appropriate to the preacher but, especially if the preacher is a celibate, such musings just make for non-communication. Any breakdown in communication is especially sad today for in this period after Christmas there is the heightened awareness, by everyone taking part, of what is happening in the liturgy. This is the result of us still being in the wake of the great feast and the holiday period. Second, there is the moralist’s approach: this is really the day for speaking about the ‘Christian ideal’ of family life. What can then follow is a potted mix of injunctions and abstract ideals where theology (laced with canon law) is allowed free rein in lieu of a psychology of relationships or a sociological analysis of contemporary society. Whether or not this is well received, rejected, or ignored is beside the point: such speculation has no place in today’s liturgy for it supplants the purpose of the feast for an ulterior motive. The liturgy of Christmas is about our wonder at the incarnation and a loving reflection on its implications for us as Christians, and no other aim, even one so worthy as promoting the Christian notion of marriage, should deflect us. The Son of God made flesh, not as an abstract being labelled ‘human’, but as an individual with a specific history, Jesus the son of Mary and with Joseph as his father in their specific setting of a small town where Joseph worked as an artisan – this is the wonder we must recall today.

3. The old dictum ‘God became man in Jesus Christ’ obscured the basic issue at the heart of this feast: God the Son did not become a ‘man’ or ‘human’ as we think of these as abstract categories – he became another unique individual with a history and a distinct identity. Just as you and I are unique, unrepeatable and distinct in our specific backgrounds and cultures and experiences, so too was Jesus. This is a celebration of the depths of the humanity of our Lord. But as Christians we also believe that we all share something that is equally deep with one another: each of us is a daughter or son of the Father. We are the children of God and we share this with Jesus as a member of his family. This is a conviction of faith in the loving reality of God that makes us brothers and sisters to one another and to Jesus. This is not some ab­stract notion of sharing in a common human nature. We may, as a matter of our philosophical perspective, hold that there is a common humanity and a common human nature which allows us to share experiences and joys and sufferings, but to call each other brothers and sisters in Christ is not simply to have a religious ‘take’ on human nature. To be brothers and sisters in Christ is to be distinct and unique creations with distinct vocations within the care of God, and to have the commonality of the love of the Father calling us as his people united in his Son – a union achieved in the mystery we recall at Christmas. Put bluntly, the secular world may promote the notion of ‘universal human brotherhood’ lfraternite) – and as responsible people in the world we should support this ideal as a way of overcoming wars, exploitation, oppression, and bringing help to anyone who suffers. But our Christian vision of the links that bind each individual to every other individ­ual is both more rich – in that it stresses each’s uniqueness ­and more profound: we are brothers and sisters because each is a daughter or son of the Father, and it is through the Word that we are given this dignity.

4. So how do we communicate this new set of relationships that is established through the specific history of Jesus? For most of us the crib in the church is just there: one of the Christmas trimmings which might be referred to for the ‘children’s sake’ on Christmas Day but precious little afterward. Yet (see ‘The Crib, pp 156) this assembly is a wonderful collage of our basic memory of the entry of the Word into the creation. This is a day on which the crib can be exploited in the homily. People do not have to be actually looking at the crib while you speak – in fact it is better if they cannot see it during the homily (people using PowerPoint should have realised by now that if you leave the images on all the time the people stop listening to you and get caught up with what they see), everyone can remember what a crib looks like while you preach, and they can visit it afterwards.

5. Just reflect on the contradictions contained in the crib. First, we have a private family moment – the birth of Jesus – without the larger family nearby and with no hint that it has impact on those immediately around; yet we are told that this event is heralded by angels to shepherds as of momentous significance to humanity. Second, the inn is full, they have come on the wrong day at the wrong hour – and so has the baby for the equivalent of the ‘No vacancies’ sign is out and they have not ‘booked ahead’. The reference to the ‘no room in the inn’ (Lk 2:7) indicates a serious lack of planning, yet we see Luke quoting the whole history of humanity, back to Adam to show God’s planning, the prophets and John the Baptist preparing the way, and this birth being proclaimed as ‘the fall and rising of many in Israel’ (Lk 2:34). God’s plan­ning is praised for its loving providence, yet events occur in a way that was determined by how many got to the inn that evening before them.

6. So what do these contradictions mean? They show us that the mystery of God and our re-creation in the Christ is greater than our human minds. We are caught up in a mystery of love, but it does not bring ready answers and simply success. These contradictions make us reassess any precon­ceived ideas we might have about a ‘god’ or about religion. The Father does not act like a bullying superpower for whom we are playthings or puppets, but reveals himself in his Son coming among us as one of us. We live in the mystery of the revelation of God in the particularities of a human life: the vast plan for the incarnation, yet there was no room that night in the inn! Christianity is a religion of the absolute reign of God, but that takes the small person seriously and leans towards the powerless.

7. If more members of your assembly are drawn to just go and look at the crib than usual, i.e. to reflect on the church’s memory of the coming of the Christ, then this is one of the times when you can check out if your communication has got through.

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For meditation

Take the child and his mother with you,
and escape into Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you. (Mt 2:13)
 

Scripture prayer

“All this doctrinal wealth is focussed in only one direction, serving one another in our every condition, in our every ailment, in every way. In a certain way, the Church has proclaimed herself as the handmaid of humanity.”   Pope Paul VI quoted by Pope John Paul II in Sicily

Lord, we thank you for St Joseph.
We pray that we too may be guided by what you have told us.
The manner will be unique to us, but we must be ready to recognize you.
Lord, we come to you in our various situations.
Some of us are single, some are celibates;
for others our original partner has gone from us or has divorced us.
Help us always to be guided by your intervention as St Joseph was,
to know that once we are led by you, all will be well for us.

“The Word was made flesh in the incarnation,  and ever since we have tried to make that flesh into Word again.”   Cardinal Martini

Lord, we often find ourselves in a lost situation.
We find ourselves in some Egypt or some other area we hadn’t bargained for.
Help us to be like Joseph and follow your way wherever you want to lead us.
Lord, when we know that our Herod is dead, it is time to make our way home.
Help us to follow the right way,
to know when we must move to another town where we will be known to be yours.
Jesus was called a Nazarene. Help us to be whoever you want us to be.

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1. From Connections:

THE WORD: 

Matthew’s Gospel continues his story of Jesus’ early years, focusing on the evangelist’s principal theme: that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God long ago.  Matthew portrays the Holy Family as outcasts, refugees in their own country.  Bound together by love and trust in God and in one another, they embark on the dangerous journey to Egypt to flee the insane rage of Herod.  Jesus relives the Exodus experience of Israel: he will come out of Egypt, the land of slavery, to establish a new covenant of liberation for the new Israel. 

HOMILY POINTS:

Today’s Feast of the Holy Family calls us to re-discover and celebrate our own families as harbors of forgiveness and understanding and safe places of unconditional love, welcome and acceptance.

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.

Matthew’s Gospel of the Holy Family’s fleeing the murderous wrath of Herod portends what is to come: the Christmas crib is overshadowed by the cross of Holy Week, that this holy birth is the beginning of our rebirth in the resurrection.

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2. Fr. Ray E. Atwood

Refugees from contemporary Herods 

Purpose: The Holy Family was not immune to suffering, sacrifice, exile, and uncertainty. They, too, struggled with darkness and sin in the world. King Herod was a vicious, cruel, conniving individual. He, and his retinue, lived in the shadow of darkness. He saw Jesus, not as Savior, but as a threat to his power and position. His attempt to eradicate the threat failed, but we continue to struggle against Herods in our time.

At a place called Cranbrook, in the United Kingdom, local volunteers once built a rifle range where they could practice. By a strange coincidence, two starlings decided to build a nest on a pile of brush and sticks used to stop the bullets as they whizzed through or past the targets. Their little nest was almost directly in the line of fire. In that dangerous spot, the birds built their nest, hatched their eggs, and raised their young. Bullets splintered twigs all around them, and threw up dirt and dust over their tiny nest. But the birds stayed anyway. Only when fall and cold weather set in did the birds leave their dangerous location for a safer and sunnier home. One volunteer was curious about how the starlings managed to remain safe despite all the bullets whizzing around them. He wondered why a bullet never killed any of the birds. So one day he went over to the nest, and as he approached it, a coin fell from the nest onto the ground. He picked it up and marveled at the words on it. It was the familiar motto: “In God We Trust.”

“In God We Trust.” This simple motto was the motto of the Holy Family. It was the principle by which they lived their lives and survived dangers, trials, and threats. We know little about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What we know comes largely from the Gospel accounts we hear at this time of year.

This year we hear the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. The Gospel reminds us that they did not live in splendid isolation. They did not live in a cocoon, sheltered from the joys and sorrows of everyday life. They lived in the real world, a world that was at times dark and cold. They struggled against the forces of sin and death. St. Matthew tells us that an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, and commanded him to take his family to safety in Egypt. He wanted Joseph and his family to escape the clutches of the wicked King Herod. Herod was trying to destroy the Child Jesus because he feared Jesus would become a political rival. He responded to his fears by anger, destruction, and violence. His attempt failed.

Threats to the family are not a thing of the past. There are many threats to family life in the 21st century. They include a contraceptive mentality, which separates life and love; individualism, which isolates couples from each other; attempts to redefine marriage and family, which add to the confusion prevalent in society, especially among the young; no-fault divorce, which tears at the fabric of the marital bond; abortion, which destroys the fruit of married love; excessive concern for material things, which obscures the value of spiritual gifts; poor moral examples in the movies and on television, which promote false notions of marriage.

Behind these threats is the devil. Satan is trying to destroy families today, as Herod tried to destroy the Holy Family centuries ago. Modern Herods include government officials who promote laws, policies, and practices which relativize marriage, and redefine the family; providers of contraceptives and abortifacients, who destroy the gift of human life; actors and actresses, who teach on the screen that marriage need not be guided by ethics and morality. And the list could go on and on.

How do families deal with these modern Herods? It starts with adopting the motto, “In God We Trust.” Trusting in God is the key to renewal of family life in our nation and world. When we trust in God, we place ourselves in his hands. When we trust in God, we follow his directions and teachings. When we trust in God, we live out the goals of the natural institution of marriage. Only God can rescue our families from a culture of death and immorality.

May we face the threats to our families as Joseph did, with trust, humility, and obedience to the commands of God. May the Holy Family inspire us to grow closer to God our Father. Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us. Amen.

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3. Fr. John Speekman 

Let us reflect on the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass. It says: The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

We are told the what the baby was doing, it was lying in the manger. This has a prophetic significance. A manger is a feeding trough. Mary’s infant was already teaching us who he was - food for the world.

But Mary and Joseph, what were they doing? They were busy simply being with Jesus - like the first Apostles called ‘to be with him’.

For nine months Mary had been carrying this extraordinary child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, in her womb. Joseph had almost left her because of this child. It was only the message of an angel that had stopped him: Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.

Now they could see with their very own eyes what was ‘in her’ – an infant, a son, who was to save his people from their sins.

How they must have wondered! How they must have longed to see his face, and now that he was here they could ‘read’ the Word of God in the his tiny face.

The shepherds, too, were eagerly seeking the face of the Christ. They wanted to see the Messiah, the Promised One. They hastened to Bethlehem. I’m glad they hastened. It would have been unseemly for them to dawdle along the way. The only fitting way, really, for us to seek the Lord is to hasten.

So what did they find when they got to Bethlehem? They found Mary and Joseph and the baby. They were seeking Jesus the Saviour but they found Mary and Joseph too.

There is a Christianity which would push aside Mary and Joseph and focus totally on Jesus. This is not Catholic Christianity. Don’t ever be misled by people who say Mary and Joseph ‘distract’ from Jesus or ‘take away’ from him. When we seek Jesus we find him with Mary, and Joseph - the Holy Family!

Jesus came to earth as a human child, in a human family, with human friends and foes. God wanted it that way. Jesus, too, wanted a family, he needed a family, he had a family and he does not expect us to brush them away. The face of Christ our Saviour is the face of a man standing between his parents.

As Jesus honoured his family so he wants us to honour them. And so let us repeat the Entrance Antiphon whose wording is not a mistake but carries with it this deep mystery about our Redeemer: The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

A famous mystic once wrote on this subject from another angle when he complained about those who ignore the Old Testament and just concentrate on the New Testament. As he said, at that time: I don’t want a Jesus who is not speaking with Moses and Elijah. In our turn we can say: I don’t want a Jesus who is not with Mary and Joseph.

This infant lying in the manger is the Son of Mary but also the father of his own family – a family made up of all those who were to believe in him. Even from the cradle he began to call this family to himself, beginning with Mary and Joseph beside the manger, and then the shepherds, and then the wise men, and then you!

Do you think Jesus would be pleased if others pushed you aside in order to get close to him? I don’t think so. I think Jesus wants you to be in the picture with him, along with all the countless souls he has washed clean in his Blood and now calls his brothers and sisters.

A charming incident is recorded in one of Vassula Ryden’s diaries when Jesus allegedly appeared to her. I say allegedly because these apparitions have not been okayed by the Church.

Anyway, Jesus allegedly appeared to her and Vassula could see there was someone standing behind him. He said “I’ve brought someone”. Vassula then saw who it was and exclaimed, “It’s your Mother!” He said, “Yes, and your mother too.”

If Jesus is our brother then Mary is our Mother too, and Joseph our father. We are members of ‘the Family’.

We join him today as family around the altar on which he will become present and feed us with his Body and Blood. There are many Catholics who will not come to Mass this Sunday. They would sweep us away and say ‘We want only Jesus – we can pray to him at home'.

This is not true Christianity! As Jesus wanted to be found in his family in the stable of Bethlehem so he wants to be found in his family of faith in the Church. Those who want Jesus but not his Church are not fully Christian.

So now, as the Opening Prayer of the Mass says “Let us pray, as the family of God, who share in his life.”

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Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading reminds us of duties of children towards their parents, the duty of respecting and obeying parents, authority that stands in the place of God. As people under authority we sometimes like to question our superiors and their decisions, we feel we know better and perhaps we do. Jesus the son of God was the obedient son of Mary and Joseph. He was the obedient son of God. “My food is to do the will of my Father in Heaven”. In these days when authority is questioned there is still place for obedience in our lives.
An 80-year old man was sitting on the sofa in his house along with his 45-year old highly educated son. Suddenly a crow perched on their window. The father asked the son what it was. The son replied saying it was a crow. After a few minutes the father again asked his son what it was. The son showing signs of slight irritation said it was a crow. After a little while, the father again asked his son the third time what it was. At this time some more signs of irritation were felt in the son’s tone and he said to his father with a snub that it was a crow. After a little while, again the father again asked his son the fourth time what it was. This time the son shouted at his father and rebuked him for asking the same question again and again and not understanding anything. After a while the father went to his room and returned with a tattered diary which he had maintained since his son was born. On opening a page he asked his son to read that page. The following words were written in the diary: “Today my little son aged three was sitting with me on the sofa, when a crow was sitting on the window. My son asked me 22 times what it was, and I replied all 22 times that it was a crow. I hugged him lovingly each time he asked the same question again and again for 21 times. I did not at all feel irritated I rather felt affection for my innocent child.”
From ‘The Sunday Liturgy’

The Gospel narrates the incident of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord. They meet two old people there, Simeon who had been waiting for the coming of the Lord and Anna the prophetess. While the focus is on Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the young family, Simeon and Anna too have their place, perhaps reminding us that old folks too, parents and grandparents have their role and place in our homes, especially within the lives of grandchildren. Often when we think of the Holy family, they are portrayed as the model family and we think that they had a very smooth, untroubled existence very unlike our own troubled families! Yet this is not true. The holy family experienced much of what we go through in our lives. They lived with insecurity! When they needed a home most they are homeless. They are emigrants in a foreign land. Just when their child is born there is insecurity again as they have to live with murder threats. They fear the murderous designs of Herod and they have to flee. After they have settled down they have to move again. As Jesus grows they lose him in the temple and they cannot understand why he has chosen to stay behind.  There is misunderstanding. Later as He goes about his mission there is separation, loneliness and ultimately death that they have to cope with. Was the Holy family an ideal family? Was it not very much like our own? What helped them to live in the family is their mutual respect and reverence for each other. They are committed to one another and support each other even if they do not understand each other’s actions completely. Ultimately it is their faith that brings about the love that unites the Holy family. To live with others we have to love others! We will then discover that God is very close to us, He is at home with us, He dwells in our midst! We may think our families are different from others but God will come none the less!

The Family
E. V. Lucas wrote a very lovely kind of parable. “A mother lost her soldier son. The news came to her in dispatches from the war. He had fallen fighting nobly at the head of his regiment. She was inconsolable. “O that I might see him again,” she prayed, “If only for five minutes – but to see him.” An angel answered her prayer. “For five minutes,” said the angel, “You will see him.” “Yes,” said the angel, “but do think a little. He was a grown man. There are thirty years to choose from. How would you like to see him?” And the mother paused and wondered. “Would you see him,” said the angel, ‘as a soldier dying heroically at his post? Would you see him again as on that day at school when he stepped to the platform to receive the highest honour a boy could have?” The mother’s eyes lit up. “Would you see him,” said the angel, “as a babe at your breast?” And slowly the mother said, “No, I would have him for five minutes as he was one day when he ran in from the garden to ask my forgiveness for being naughty. He was so small and so unhappy, and the tears were making streaks down his face through the garden dust. And he flew into my arms, with such force that he hurt me.” The one thing that the mother wished above all to recapture was the moment when her son needed her. There is nothing more moving in life than to hear someone say, “I need you; I cannot do without you.”
Anthony Castle in ‘More Quotes and Anecdotes’

Have you lost him?
When I was growing up in the country, there was a man who was classified as being ‘simple’. He was to be founded in the front row of church, chapel, Orange hall, or ‘meeting house’. One day he was on the main street of the local town, listening to an evangelist preacher, who addressed all who cared to listen from the back to truck.  He was talking about ‘finding the Lord’. Our friend was at the front of the crowd, and he had his usual vacant grin, which the preacher may have interpreted as some sort of religious trance! Anyhow, as he thumped his bible, he turned to our friend, and asked him “And you, sir, have you found the Lord?’ To which our friend replied ‘Naw. Have ya lost him?’ For once in his life, our friend was brilliant…
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’

I’m walking in your footsteps!
It is always a busy day for any woman who is the mother of ten children. But one particular day, even doing the daily chores became difficult for Louisa because of one little boy. Bob, who was three years old, was constantly on her heels no matter where she went. Whenever she stopped to do something and turned back, she would trip over him. Several times, she suggested fun activities to keep him occupied, but he innocently smiled and said, “Oh, that’s all right, Mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.” Then, he happily went wherever his mother went. After tripping on him for the fifth time, she lost her temper and shouted at him. She said, “Why don’t you go out and play like other boys? Why do you follow me like this?” He looked up at his mother and said, “Well, Mommy, in the school my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.”
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

Finding Jesus
A ‘puzzle page’ in a newspaper showed a drawing of an outdoor scene. Beneath it was this question “Can you find the girl in the drawing?” A close examination of the drawing showed the girl’s eyes and eyebrows concealed in a tree branch. Another branch hid her mouth and nose. A cloud revealed her flowing hair. After you discovered the girl, that drawing was never the same again. It is like that with Jesus. He is in our lives, waiting to be found. Once we find him, our lives will never be the same again. This raises a question: Why might I be finding it hard to find Jesus in my life?
Mark Link in ‘Vision 2000’

Family Prayer
Dorothy Day, whom the New York Times called “the most influential person in the history of American Catholicism,” says that one of her first attractions towards Catholicism came as a child when she saw an adult catholic at prayer. She writes: “It was about ten o’clock in the morning that I went up to Kathryn’s to call on her to come out to play. There was no one on the porch or in the kitchen…. I burst in…“In the front room Mrs. Barrett was on her knees, saying her prayers. She turned to tell me that Kathryn and the children had gone to the store and went on with her praying. And I felt a warm burst of love toward Mrs. Barrett.” That’s a beautiful scene, and I’m sure many of us can relate similar examples of adult Catholics at prayer.

Overcoming Absence
When an American playwright reflected on his childhood he told the story of how his father who was a telephone engineer sometimes worked away from home. At first, his father was away from home. At First, his father was away only a couple of days and this happened rarely, but then his absences became more frequent and also lasted longer. Eventually, his father never returned home. The telephone engineer had fallen in love with long distance and his son had to live his life in the felt absence of his father. There was no word, no call, no contact. Just silence and absence. It‘s impossible to have a relationship with someone who is always absent and always silent. Usually we overcome our separation from touch through phoning or writing. And Christmas has become a traditional time for keeping alive old bonds of friendship by a word of greeting. Of course the best way to keep alive the love of absent friends and relatives is to visit them. The visit is the traditional way of conquering distance and overcoming absence: so we talk of “Going to see” someone, “showing our face”, and “spending some time together”. And in the giving and receiving of hospitality, in being present to each other again, our relationship grows and deepens.


The first reading reminds us of duties of children towards their parents, the duty of respecting and obeying parents. As people under authority, we sometimes like to question our superiors and their decisions, we feel we know better and perhaps we do. Jesus the son of God was the obedient son of Mary and Joseph. He was the obedient son of God. “My food is to do the will of my father in Heaven”. In these days when authority is questioned there is still place for obedience in our lives.


Whoever obeys his father and mother will….
One of my earliest memories of my mother’s simple piety was to watch her while she searched for something she had lost. St Anthony was called in straightaway, and, if the object was found, she owed Anthony a few bob! While involving St Anthony, however, her audible prayer was ‘Jesus was lost, Jesus was found. Jesus was lost, Jesus was found… etc.’ It was like a mantra, but she was completely convinced that the outcome would be good. (I must confess that, when my own back was to the wall, and I had lost something precious, I just swallowed my pride, and repeated her mantra!).
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’

The Gospel narrates the incident of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord according to the practice of the times. Often when we think of the Holy family, they are portrayed as the model family and we think that they had a very smooth, untroubled existence so very unlike our own troubled families! Yet this is not true. The holy family shared so much of what we go through in our lives. They lived with insecurity! When they needed a home most they are homeless. Just when their child is born they live with murder threats. They fear the murderous designs of Herod and they have to flee. After they have settled down they have to move again. As Jesus grows there loose him in the temple and they cannot understand why he has chosen to stay behind. There is misunderstanding. Later as He goes about his mission there is separation, loneliness and ultimately death that they have to cope with. Was the Holy family an ideal family? What helps them to live as a family is their mutual respect and reverence for each other. They are committed to one another and support each other even if they do not understand each other’s actions completely. Ultimately it is their faith that brings about the love that unites the Holy family. To live with others we have to live for others! We will then discover that God is very close to us, He is at home. We may think our families are different from others but he will come none the less!


I’m walking in your footsteps
It is always a busy day for any woman who is the mother of ten children. But one particular day, even doing the daily chores became difficult for Louisa because of one little boy. Bob, who was three years old, was constantly on her heels no matter where she went. Whenever she stopped to do something and turned back, she would trip over him. Several times, she suggested fun activities to keep him occupied, but he innocently smiled and said, “Oh, that’s all right, Mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.” Then, he happily went wherever his mother went. After tripping on him for the fifth time, she lost her temper and shouted at him. She said, “Why don’t you go out and play like other boys? Why do you follow me like this?” He looked up at his mother and said, “Well, Mommy, in the school my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.” John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

Daddy, why isn’t mummy like everybody else’s mummy?
On a December night in Chicago, a little girl climbed onto her father's lap and asked a question. It was a simple question, yet it had a heartrending effect on Robert May. "Daddy," four year old Barbara asked, "Why isn't my Mommy just like everybody else's mommy?" On a couch lay his young wife, Evelyn, racked with cancer. For two years she had been bedridden; all Bob's income had gone for treatments and medicines. The terrible ordeal already had shattered two adult lives. Bob suddenly realised the happiness of his growing daughter was also in jeopardy. He prayed for some satisfactory answer to her question. Bob May knew only too well what it meant to be "different." As a child he had been weak and delicate. With the innocent cruelty of children, his playmates had continually goaded the stunted, skinny lad to tears. Nor was his adult life much happier. Unlike many of his classmates, Bob became a lowly copy writer for Montgomery Ward, the big Chicago Mail order house. Now at 33, Bob was deep in debt, depressed and sad. Although Bob did not know it at the time, the answer he gave the tousled haired child on his lap was to bring him to fame and fortune. On that December night Bob began to tell a story..."Once upon a time there was a reindeer named Rudolph, the only reindeer in the world that had a big red nose. Naturally people called him Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." As Bob went on to tell about Rudolph, he tried desperately to communicate to Barbara the knowledge that, even though some creatures of God are strange and different, they often enjoy the miraculous power to make others happy. Rudolph, Bob explained, was terribly embarrassed by his unique nose. Other reindeer laughed at him; his mother and father and sister were mortified too. Even Rudolph wallowed in self pity. "Well," continued Bob, "one Christmas Eve, Santa Claus got his team of husky reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixo ready for their yearly trip around the world. But a terrible fog engulfed the earth that evening, and Santa knew that the mist was so thick he wouldn't be able to find any chimney." "Suddenly Rudolph appeared, his red nose glowing brighter than ever. Santa sensed at once that here was the answer to his perplexing problem. He led Rudolph to the front of the sleigh, fastened the harness and climbed in." "They were off! Rudolph guided Santa safely to every chimney that night. Rain and fog, snow and sleet; nothing bothered Rudolph, for his bright nose penetrated the mist like a beacon." "And so it was that Rudolph became the most famous and beloved of all the reindeer. The huge red nose he once hid in shame was now the envy of every buck and doe in the reindeer world. Santa Claus told everyone that Rudolph had saved the day and from that Christmas, Rudolph has been ,living serenely and happy." Little Barbara laughed with glee when her father finished. Then, at Christmas time Bob decided to make the story into a poem like "The Night Before Christmas" and prepare it in bookish form illustrated with pictures, for Barbara's personal gift. Night after night, Bob worked on the verses determined his daughter would have a worthwhile gift even though he could not afford to buy one... Then as Bob was about to put the finishing touches on Rudolph, tragedy struck. Evelyn May died. Bob, his hopes crushed, turned to Barbara as chief comfort. Yet, despite his grief, he sat at his desk in the quiet, now lonely apartment, and worked on "Rudolph" with tears in his eyes. Shortly after Barbara had cried with joy over his handmade gift on Christmas morning, Bob was asked to an employee's holiday party at Montgomery Wards. He didn't want to go, but his office associates insisted. When Bob finally agreed, he took with him the poem and read it to the crowd. First the noisy throng listened in laughter and gaiety. Then they became silent, and at the end, broke into spontaneous applause. That was in 1938. By Christmas of 1947, some 6 million copies of the booklet had been given away or sold, making Rudolph one of the most widely distributed books in the world. The demand for Rudolph sponsored products, increased so much in variety and number that educators and historians predicted Rudolph would come to occupy a permanent place in the Christmas legend. -Christmas is here once again and God offers us His special gift of love - a love that is patient, pure and perfect! Unwrap His gift of love and share it with all you meet.
Anonymous

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection of Stories:

1: 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’)

2: 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).

3: 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!" 

4.  Grandparents are a treasure:
Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the dining table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table and set it off to the side of the dining hall so the grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day, the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who will celebrate his 77th birthday on December 17. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/