My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I hope that this Christmas season has been a holy and blessed time for all of you and your families. As you know, the liturgical time of Christmas starts really on the eve of Christmas — Christmas Eve — and then it goes all the way to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. So we are still on the Christmas season.
So Christmas is really, as we know, a family celebration. When we come together in our families and thank God and rejoice in the gift of our parents and their children — our brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and grandparents.
Most of all, we thank God for the gift of his Son, Jesus. And in a deeper way, when we reflect on our Lord’s nativity, we realize that Jesus does not come into this world alone.
When we reflect on the story of Christmas, we notice that when the magi and the shepherds go off in search of Jesus — they find Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in a manger. So they find Jesus in his human family.
And my dear brothers and sisters, God wants us to find Jesus in our own families. That’s why we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family on the first Sunday after Christmas.
Jesus was born, as we know, into a loving family. I think it is beautiful to think that his first sights he saw, the first sounds he heard, just imagine how to was — all his experiences and feelings on that first Christmas night — he was embraced in the love of a family. It’s beautiful and it’s true!
So our families are a source of joy and tender moments. But we all know, our families can also be a source of sorrow and pain. This is the human condition.
It was not easy for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as we just heard in the passage of the Gospel. But Jesus comes into the world — to change the human condition, to open up new possibilities for our humanity.
So, this is the beautiful meaning of Christmas.
And so our readings today talk to us about these beautiful possibilities we have for our families, our Lord’s beautiful plan for family life.
The first reading, from the Book of Sirach, talks about the honor and respect of children to their parents:
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.
He who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
And as I was reflecting on this reading, I was thinking that it speaks especially to those who are caring for your elderly fathers and mothers, and I know that probably many of you are.
This reading should encourage all of us in the way that we relate to the elderly. I think God knows, obviously, the sacrifices necessary to take care of the elderly. And we hear God’s promise today — that your kindness will not be forgotten. He will bless you for the love that you show to your elderly parents.
As you probably know in the Archdiocese and in many diocese in California, we have started a new program that we call the Whole Person Care. And it is a program that is basically trying to help all of us, every parish, to have a ministry for the elderly. And Pope Francis has talked about it as it is something that is important for the Church and for all of us.
So I think today as we reflect on the beauty of the family — praying to the Holy Family — let us especially pray for our families, that we are able to take care of the elderly.
And as we reflect on the Gospel, we see that Mary and Joseph are always listening to the voice of God. They want to know God’s will and they want to conform their lives to do God’s will.
And my dear brothers and sisters, God is speaking to all of us, all the time. But we need to always be training our hearts so that we can hear him better. So that means, in a practical way, we need to keep growing in our prayer life. As we know, our prayer life is always listening and talking to God.
So I think this passage of the Gospel is a good example for all of you who are parents. You have a beautiful responsibility as mothers and fathers — to teach your children how to pray and how to develop their own relationship with God.
And I think, I mean it’s probably a challenge, but you can do it is a simple way. Just praying in the morning together as a family, praying at meals. Maybe saying a few decades of the Rosary before going to bed. Or the many little ways that we can develop to make prayer a normal, natural part of your family life.
If we make time for God, we are going to feel more and more his gentle and loving presence in our lives. We will be able to hear him speaking to us, guiding us gently, helping us to follow his direction. Just as he did for St. Joseph in the Gospel today.
And as was saying, when Mary and Joseph pray, they pray to know God’s will and to do it. We know Mary said at the Annunciation, “May it be done to me according to your word.”2 And we see that same example with St. Joseph today.
The Gospel today tells us that Joseph heard the angel’s command in a dream — and he simply carried it out. “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.”
St. Joseph, just like Mary our Blessed Mother, wanted to know God’s will and to do it.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we can all pray like Mary and Joseph. This is a simple and wonderful way to pray: just trying to listen, what is that God wants me to do. We can even ask him: “Tell me, what is it that you want me to do in this particular situation? How can I do better? How can I improve my way of doing things — what is it that I need to do?”
And then do it, with the grace of God.
Finally, St, Paul gives us some also practical advice in the second reading today. He says:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones,
Holy and beloved, heartfelt:
Compassion, Kindness, Humility
Gentleness and Patience
Bearing with one another
And forgiving one another
And above all, put on love
That is the bond of perfection
So my brothers and sisters, the meaning of our lives in found in love. And love is a daily struggle to let go of our natural tendency to be selfish. It happens to all of us.
So, we need to always be learning from Jesus — how to love like he loved; how live, not for ourselves, but for God and for others.
This is the pattern we see in our Lord’s life, beginning on Christmas. He comes down from heaven and makes himself a child — for us. And in his time on this earth, he gave everything for us, even his own life.
So Jesus is asking us to follow his example, to live with compassion and love for others — beginning first of all, in our families.
So, this week, as we continue our Christmas journey let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to help us to grow in our desire to know God’s will and to do it.
And let us ask the Holy Child Jesus, to help us to be more loving, more gentle — more like him — in our own families.