Sunday, 26 December 2021 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family, celebrating the Holy Family consisting of Our Lord Jesus Himself as the centre and heart of that most blessed and wonderful family, and Mary, the Mother of God, as well as St. Joseph, the legal husband of Mary and the foster-father of the Lord as the Protector of the Holy Family. Today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and keeping mind what the Lord had done for us by coming to us in this world in Christmas, let us all reflect on God’s words and remind ourselves on the significance of the Holy Family and our own Christian families.

In our first reading today, we listened from the Book of the prophet Samuel about the time when the prophet Samuel as a baby was brought by his mother Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. Both of his parents had long been expecting a son together and although Elkanah, Samuel’s father had many children and sons with Penninah, his other wife, it was Hannah, Samuel’s mother that Elkanah loved more. Therefore, when Hannah prayed to the Lord asking for help as she was often bullied by Penninah for not having a child at all, God heard her and at that time, Hannah also made the promise to offer her firstborn son to the service of God.

And thus, Samuel, one of the greatest of the prophets of Israel and also a Judge over the people, the last one before the days of the Kings, came to be presented before the Lord after he was born and under the loving care of his parents, Elkanah and Hannah. He was brought up well and later on would prove to grow up in strength and faith, in his dedication and commitment to God, such that he came to succeed Eli, the Judge and High Priest of the Israelites who took care of him since his early infancy after being presented at the Temple of God.

This story of the prophet Samuel is in a way parallel to what we heard from our Gospel passage today regarding the famous story of Our Lord Jesus when He was only twelve years old, in the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. At that time, the Lord and His family, the Holy Family, with Mary His mother and St. Joseph came to Jerusalem to attend and celebrate the feast of the Passover in accordance to the Jewish traditions. It was a time of great celebration and many pilgrims would have come and made their way to Jerusalem from all over the world.

In such a situation, it made sense why Mary and St. Joseph could lose track of the young Lord Jesus when He purposefully remained behind in the Temple after the celebrations and the ceremonies. He stayed there in the House of God, the dwelling of His Heavenly Father, to be close to Him and at the same time, engaging in conversations and debates with the wise men and the teachers of the Law assembled there, who were all astonished to witness His great wisdom. It was there that Mary and St. Joseph found Him after they realised that He was not with them.

They found Him there in conversation with the wise men and the teachers of the Law, and were also greatly amused by what they had heard, although they knew Who He really was. When the Lord spoke to them saying that He ought to be in His Father’s House, those words were remembered by Mary, who also surely understood what He meant, as the Archangel Gabriel himself had revealed to her at the Annunciation that her Son is indeed the Son of God Most High. Jesus was there in Jerusalem, at the Temple of God to be with His heavenly Father.

However, as we heard there, the Lord obeyed His mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph. He returned with them to Nazareth and put Himself under their tutelage and guidance. He is indeed the Lord God, King of Kings, the Master of all the whole Universe, Lord of all creation. Yet, by His incarnation, through the mystery of His indwelling in the flesh, He had also become the Son of Man, born as a Child in Bethlehem, the city of David in Judea just as we have just celebrated it in Christmas yesterday.

He placed Himself under the authority and power of His parents as part of the Holy Family to show us that as the Son of Man, He was just like all of us, who also have to obey our own parents and seniors, to listen to them and to hear their advice for us on how we ought to live our lives. As the Son, He listened to His mother Mary and also St. Joseph, both of whom must have been instrumental in teaching Him the life skills needed for Him to face this world as any man would have, and just like how we learnt our first skills from our own parents.

The Holy Family showed all of us what a true and loving Christian family should be like, full of love and care for one another, and each member doing their part in making their entire relationship work well together. The Lord as the Son followed and obeyed His parents, listening to them and their words. Even much later on, as we all remember in the Wedding at Cana, the Lord listened to His mother’s words and performed His first miracle there to help the wedding couple who then faced an embarrassing situation of running out of wine.

Meanwhile, Mary loved her Son as His mother, caring for Him and providing for Him, walking with Him and according to Apostolic traditions, following Him on His many ministries and efforts among the people of God. And she followed Him even to the foot of the Cross, as anguished and most sorrowful as she was to have witnessed her beloved Son battered and bruised, rejected and reviled by His own people, and was forced to take up the Cross, bearing it to His most painful and humiliating death. As a mother, Mary dedicated herself totally to her Son and loved Him unconditionally.

And St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of the Lord, the Protector of the Holy Family took great care of Mary and her Son, since before the Lord was even born into this world. Following the guidance of the Angel of God, he took Mary as his wife and doing his part in the mission entrusted to him, in guiding the Holy Family, as he helped Mary on her way to Bethlehem, enduring a lot of challenges in the process. As a loving husband, he cared for Mary and the yet unborn Jesus in her womb, as they made the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and later on in trying to find a lodging and a place for Mary to give birth as all the inns and lodgings were full and rejected them.

Later on, St. Joseph would also lead the Holy Family to Egypt when King Herod the Great wanted to kill the Lord, as he came to know of His existence and coming, seeing Him as a threat to his own rule, power and authority. He followed the guidance of the Angel of the Lord and led his family to safety. Later on he would lead them back to Nazareth after those who wanted the Lord’s death had gone, and settled there, where he likely helped Mary in patiently bringing up the Lord. Although the Lord Jesus was not his own biological son, but he still surely cared for Him very much. He did not say any words throughout the Gospels, but in his righteousness and actions, in his attitude and according to traditions of the Apostles, he must have been a really good father figure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the story of the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and St. Joseph, all of us are called to reflect on our own families, our own parents and also our own children for those who have them and have been blessed with these. Today we are reminded that our families first and foremost must be grounded in love, the love that we ought to show one another and especially so in our respective families. Without love, the bonds that keep us together in our families will easily fall apart and that may cause our families and their members to go against each other and become divided and bitter.

This Christmas as we gather together to rejoice in the Lord Jesus and the salvation that He has brought upon us, let us all spend it together as a family. And let us use this opportunity to remind ourselves how important our family is to us. Many of us have often forgotten or sidelined our family members, in our pursuit for wealth, glory, fame and because of many other reasons. As a result, we have lost that cohesion and love that all of us ought to have as a family, and many become separated and even bickering among themselves in their families.

If we have been too busy so far in our lives, then let us all spend some time together this Christmas to get rid from ourselves all those excessive concerns and other thoughts we have, all the worries and desires we have for worldly things. Instead, let us do our best to celebrate Christmas together with our families and various family members, to reconnect ourselves and rekindle the love that we have between us, so that our family will still remain stronger together and hopefully become ever closer through. Christ and His love.

In our world today, there are many families that have been broken because of their lack of love and faith. Those families that fail to communicate with each other and spend time together often fall apart easily, especially when difficult times come. Many couples have divorced each other and many of their children were left without both parents caring for them and their love. And not only that but even the institution of marriage and family itself is often now under threat from the changing conditions and demands of our current world and society.

This is why all of us must look up to the Holy Family for strength, inspiration and guide in how we manage our own families. We should aspire to follow the examples of Christ, of His mother Mary and St. Joseph to ensure not just that our families will remain together and united, but that our families will be sanctified and holy just like that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. And often the best way for us to do this is to come together and practice our faith together through prayer. A family that prays together and love one another will have a much better chance of staying together.

May the Lord our God and Saviour, in His most holy and loving Holy Family continue to strengthen us and our faith, and give us the courage to live our lives with faith, and united in love in our respective Christian families. May He awaken and strengthen the familial love that we have among us, between spouses, between parents and children, among siblings and even among the members of our extended families. May He empower us in love, to love Him together as a family, all of us, in our own families striving to be filled with holiness and love. May all of us rejoice together this Christmas, and be blessed with ever greater love imitating the great love found in the Holy Family, our inspiration. Amen.

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