My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
This is a beautiful time of the year — the Christmas season. And I hope that you are finding time to, I guess to, slow things down and enjoy a little more special time with your families.
As you know, the Christmas season in the liturgy of the Church goes all the way to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. So we still have a little time until this year, January 8th when we still celebrate the Christmas season — the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, as I said before and is obvious to all of us, is the last day of the year. So, what happens to all of us, is we start thinking about many things, especially our resolutions for the New Year.
Mostly, I guess it’s losing weight or something like that. Or being holy, or I don’t know what it is. I’m still thinking about it myself.
It’s usually things that we want to change or to do better in the New Year.
So, in a sense, what happens is we are thinking of “new beginnings.” We want to reflect on how we want to live — or lead — our lives. How we want to make our lives better.
So, I think the readings of today’s Mass give us really good advice. Because these readings — the Feast of the Holy Family — help us to reflect on the most important blessings and relationships in our lives — our relationship with God and our relationship with our loved ones in our families.
As we hear from the Book of Sirach this morning:
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Marriage and the family are the foundations, the “building blocks” of our lives and of our society. Husband and wife becoming mother and father and bringing new life into the world. That’s God’s plan — God’s providence —for humanity.
And this is what we see in the passage of the Gospel today.
It’s very short — but it tells us everything. As we heard, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to Jerusalem and dedicated him to God.
God and his commandments are at the heart of the Holy Family. The most important thing for Mary and Joseph was to do what God wanted for their Child. That is, my dear brothers and sisters, the family’s essential vocation — to bring everything in our lives to God.
So today let us especially ask God for the grace to make our families — “holy families.” We need to look to the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the model for our own families.
And as we know, the life of the Holy Family was not easy. They were a working family and so they knew the stress and challenges that we find in every family.
When we read the Gospels during these days of Christmas, we see that, the Holy Family, that they experienced, sorrows and threats and poverty.
God allowed this in their lives to show that he is close to every family — and especially those families who are suffering.
So, it makes sense that in our families, in our own lives, we turn to them. They understand our challenges. Those of you who are parents especially should be talking to St. Joseph and our Mother Mary every day, asking their intercession and their guidance.
And again, the lesson that we learn from the Holy Family is to keep God at the heart of our family, as they did in their family. They prayed every day, they went to Jerusalem to worship.
And Mary and Joseph raised Jesus and educated him, and they did it with tender love.
The Gospel tells us today that Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.”
This is, again, the vocation of the family — to help all of us to grow in holiness and wisdom, to become stronger in our love for God and our love for others.
So God really wants our families to be holy families — to be a place of joy — where we feel the Father’s love, and where we can discover his purposes, his meaning for our life.
And what is the secret of the Holy Family?
For me, the secret of the Holy Family is prayer. And I think that’s the secret for making our families holy families.
As you probably know, just a few days ago — right before Christmas — our Holy Father Pope Francis declared a new “Venerable” in the Church — Venerable Patrick Peyton.
As your probably know, he was a priest who lived right here in Los Angeles. So, we have another saint from the City of the Angels.
And Father Peyton, as you probably remember, had a beautiful teaching. He used to say, remember: “The family that prays together, stays together.”
And this is true. Prayer must be the first thing in our lives! And prayer must be the center of our families.
And it’s not complicated. Prayer is not complicated. You do not have to be a theologian to pray! The only thing that we have to do, in order to pray, is to open our hearts to God. Just to talk to him — like a child talking to your Father.
The family that prays together stays together! When we pray, it reminds us that we are children of God, that we are part of God’s family.
And we start to see that our family here on earth is part of God’s plan for us, and we are part of God’s plan for everyone in our family. We are here to help one another to go to heaven.
The family that prays together, stays together.
When we pray, we see the people in our families as God sees them — as God’s image and as God’s gift; each one loved by God, just has he loves each one of us — you and me.
It changes everything when there is prayer in our personal life. Talking to God, listening to God. And seeing God in everyone that is close to us.
Then finally, in the second reading today, St. Paul describes the virtues we should have in our families — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. But again, at the heart of it, St. Paul talks also about prayer.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, this week, as we begin this New Year, it sounds like a good resolution. Making sure that our families become holy families. Finding time to pray together, and praying for each other as we talk and listen to God.
So, let us try to ask for the intercession of the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. That they help us to really have a wonderful year. A New Year, a new beginning. A time in which we especially look for an increase in our prayer — our relationship with God and finding a way to deal with others and bring God to their lives.
And for us to really become saints. So my prayer for you and for all of us — this coming year, 2018, will be a beautiful year of grace and transformation. May we all grow in our love for God and grow closer to Jesus and closer to our loved ones in our families.
May the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph help each one of you in your families — to pray together and stay together and live in God’s presence with love and joy.
1. Readings: Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14; Ps. 128:1-5, 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52.