My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I hope that these past days, this Christmas week, has been a joyful time for each one of you and your families. We are still in the Christmas season, in the liturgy of the Church.
And today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is a beautiful feast, that the Church celebrates every year during the Christmas season.
We celebrate this beautiful feast day at this time because we are aware, we all are aware, that God’s great plan of salvation is a plan for the human family.
God wants to be a Father to you and to me. God wants us to be his children. We just heard that message in our second reading of today’s Mass, from St. John. We heard those beautiful words:
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God!
And Saint John says: And so we are!
It’s a beautiful reality in our personal life, in our spiritual life.
This is why Christmas is a “family story.”
This is why Jesus Christ was born from the womb of a mother. This is why he grew up in the heart of a human family — with the Virgin Mary as his Mother and with St. Joseph in the role of his human father.
Jesus came on Christmas to make us children in God’s family — his holy Church.
Our feast today shows us that in God’s plan of love, marriage and family are the heart of the Church and the foundation of the civilization of love and truth.
That is why one of my five pastoral priorities for our great Archdiocese of Los Angeles is to strengthen marriage and the family.
Because my brothers and sisters, God wants to make all our families — “holy families.” And through the witness of our families God wants to bless all the peoples of the world and to make them into one holy family in his Church.2
So our families have a great vocation in God’s plan.
We heard in our first reading today, from the Book of Sirach, that the foundation of the family is the friendship of love. It is so important that husbands and wives be good friends — first with each other. But also with their children. It is so essential for children never to forget that their best friends are their parents.
Friendship means parents have to establish strong relationships with their children through their demands and affection. They have to spend time with their children and come down to their way of doing things. At the same time, they have to make demands and set high goals and expectations for their children.
Our Gospel reading for today shows us that the parents have a great vocation in the life of their children. This reading today is very familiar to us. As we know, it is the fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Finding in the Temple.
And this reading should cause us to reflect on all the many things that Jesus must have learned from his mother and his foster father, St. Joseph. Mostly, I think, they taught him by their example.
As we heard in today’s passage of the Gospel, Mary and Joseph taught Jesus to love God and God’s Law. They taught him how to be faithful to God by going to the Temple to worship him in love.
These are lessons for us, too, my brothers and sisters. We have to take our children to church! We have to pray with them and talk to them all the time about Jesus and his teachings. We have to make the beautiful truths of our faith and the habits of our devotions a natural and ordinary part of everyday family life.
As Mary and Joseph taught Jesus — we also have to teach our children how to listen for God’s calling in their lives.
Mary and Joseph must’ve been the ones who taught Jesus those words we heard Jesus say in the Gospel today — I must be in my Father’s house!
We have to teach our children the same thing. That God has a vocation for every person! To marriage or single life, or to priestly or religious life. We have to teach our children that they are God’s children and that they must be with him. So it is very important that we teach our children how to relate to God — so that they can say “yes” to our Father’s loving purposes for their lives.
We heard in the Gospel that Jesus went to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and that he was obedient to them. And then the Gospel tells us: Jesus advanced in wisdom … and favor before God and man.
This is what it means to say “yes” to our Father.
Obedience to God — which comes from humility — is the key. Through obedience we can grow in wisdom and favor with God.
Think about how humble Jesus was! Jesus created heaven and earth — and yet he had the humility to go to Nazareth. To live for most of his earthly life in obedience to his earthly parents.
Jesus Christ did not have to live this way. But he chose to live this way to show us the way for our lives.
So, my brothers and sisters, we have to imitate Jesus Christ. We have to keep going to Nazareth every day accompanying Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Walking with them. Living with them. Being obedient to God’s will and the teachings of his Church as we try to grow as children of God.
In this coming New Year, which is the Year of Faith — let’s really try to be holy families. We need to make Jesus Christ the center of our homes. We need to try to be better friends and make more time to be together with our families. And let’s make a new effort in our families to respect one another and — most importantly — to forgive one another, as our heavenly Father forgives us.
Let us entrust ourselves to the Holy Family and let us pray in a special way today for all families facing difficulties.
May we all know the love and protection of Mary the Mother of God; St. Joseph her most chaste spouse; and Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.
1. Readings (Feast of the Holy Family, Year C): Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14; Ps. 128:1-5; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52.
2. Gen. 12:3; Eph. 3:15.