Sunday, 27 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth and Bethlehem, consisting of the Lord Himself as the centre focus of the Holy Family, the Lord, Divine Word Incarnate born as the Son of Mary, the Mother of God, and the foster-son of St. Joseph, who became the legal father of the Lord.

As described in the Scriptures, the story of the Holy Family is truly one that is filled with many wonders for its exemplary nature as a family as well as the challenges and trials that the Holy Family had to endure together against the difficult opposition and the troubles that were facing them, through which the Lord’s opponents wanted to stop the works of God at its infancy.

We heard of how the Holy Family travelled from the small town of Nazareth in Galilee to the city of David, Bethlehem in the land of Judea due to the demands of the census that had been ordered by the Roman Emperor Augustus at that time. St. Joseph had to lead the way and take care of the heavily pregnant Mary on the long journey to Bethlehem, and braved the difficult journey in a largely inhospitable condition along the way. When they reached Bethlehem, there was no inn or lodging available for them and Mary’s delivery time was already due.

They had to take refuge in a cramped and dirty stable outside of Bethlehem, amidst animals and their shepherds. That was where the Lord was born, a King born not in a great palace but in a lowly stable. St. Joseph took good care of Mary and her Child during this period of time, and brought them all to the Temple of God to offer Jesus to the Lord as prescribed by the Law as the firstborn son offered to God. That is how we have our Gospel passage account today of how Jesus was met by Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

Through what Simeon and the prophetess Anna told Mary and St. Joseph, certainly they knew that their family was not going to be a regular or ordinary one, just as the Angel of God had revealed earlier to each one of them of their mission in Mary as the Mother of Messiah and the Son of God, and in St. Joseph the Protector and Patron of the Holy Family respectively. The words of Simeon and Anna again emphasised the gravity and importance of the role that Christ would play in the world, and by extension, the Holy Family along with it.

And not even long after Christ was born, He already had to face a lot of trials and even hatred, from the king of Judea and Galilee, Herod the Great who was threatened by the coming of a new King in the midst of his kingdom and thus wanted Jesus eliminated and destroyed. In his desperation and unwillingness to let go of his pride and greed, Herod ordered the whole infant population of Bethlehem below the age of two to be slaughtered. But God rescued Jesus and the Holy Family, and through St. Joseph’s leadership, went into Egypt until king Herod was dead.

The Holy Family was indeed an exemplary family, with St. Joseph as its head and patron, as a father figure to Our Lord and as the protector of both Mary and the Child Jesus especially during those crucial early years. Mary is the matron of the Holy Family, the mother figure as the Mother of Our Lord and also as the wife to St. Joseph, in a loving marriage blessed by God.

And of course the Lord Himself was the Son in the family, brought up by Mary and St. Joseph in Nazareth after they all returned from Egypt. The Lord listened to both of them and learnt from them many things, from St. Joseph He likely learnt the many crafts and tools, the working of the world, while from Mary, His mother He learnt more about the ethics and the other relations of the world.

The members of the Holy Family loved each other and dedicated themselves for one another, going to the Temple of God to pray and to worship, in which occasion when the Lord was twelve, He purposefully stayed behind at the Temple, and both Mary and St. Joseph were shocked to find that He was not among their return companion. They went back all the way to Jerusalem to find Jesus, and found Him in the Temple.

Again, in that occasion, although the Lord told both Mary and St. Joseph that His place was at His Father’s house, but He listened to them and obeyed them, following them back to Nazareth, and as the Scripture said, continued to grow in wisdom and strength in the sight of the world, until the coming of the days of His ministry, in which, Mary, His mother, followed faithfully along, even all the way to the Cross, and was there by the side of her Son when He died.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we progress through the Christmas season, we should see how important the family is to our Christian faith. As the Child Jesus Himself was born into a loving family and grew up with them together and grew in the faith and wisdom, thus, all of us should also model our families along the examples of the Holy Family, building up a faithful family and a strong family bonded in genuine love.

The Holy Family shows us all that it is indeed possible for us all to have a loving family and a family dedicated to God, anchored in faith and prayer, in love and compassionate care for each other. But are we modelling and living our families like that of the Holy Family? Or have we rather neglected our families and our family members, and treat each other with contempt and lacking in love?

Now let us ask ourselves, how have we been celebrating Christmas as a family? Have we been mainly focused on the material aspects, focusing on the glamour, festivities and all the gifts, the monetary and wealth we have gained and received? Or have we instead been focusing more on the time we spend together as a family? We must all realise that no matter what, nothing can replace the love and time spent together as a family, not even money.

It is indeed sad to see families nowadays that do not even exist coherently or in love, which members were divided against each other, having disputes and bitter disagreements, having conflicts and even causing suffering and to the point of murder and killing the members of your own family. And all these are caused by our weakening family foundation and our lack of faith, as our families have increasingly become more and more corrupted by worldly values and become less centred on Christ and the Holy Family.

The family is indeed the foundation of the faith and the Church, as we must all remember that the house and the family is the domestic church that all the young experience through and that is also where our young ones learn the important values of our faith, through our own actions and implementation of what we have believed as Christians. But many of us often do not do and act in the way that we have professed and believed. As a result therefore, we ended up alienating many of those who became skeptical and doubtful due to our actions.

To many, their first impression of our faith and our life comes from the family, and if our families are functional and good, faithful and committed to God and to one another, then naturally this will lead to better relationships between the members of the family with one another as well as with their Christian faith. On the contrary, if our families never sit together and pray together, and never even talk to each other and are locked with each other in struggles and disagreements, then each of the members of our families will quickly drift apart from our faith, as well as from one another.

The devil knows this well, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is why, in order to bring about our downfall, he is leading a lot of attacks and assault on the institution of our families. We should not allow him to have a free reign over us and our families, and the best way is by making sure that our families are modelled after the Holy Family. This means that our families should first of all be centred on God, to be Christ-centric in all the things we do.

And then, we should look up to the harmony shown in the Holy Family, of the value of care and love, obedience and care among its members. We should strive to make our families to be like the Holy Family too. If we have been selfish and arrogant, stubborn and easily angered, then let us all learn to be more selfless, be more willing to listen to each other, be more gentle and loving so that as each of the members of the family, we may come together and be more united, blessed and strengthened by the love of God in the face of many trials and challenges we may have to face as faithful Christian families in our world today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all deepen our relationship with one another, especially with our family members, and let us all draw ever closer from the example of the Holy Family so that each and every one of us may live our lives as ever faithful and dedicated father, mother, husband, wife, children, brothers or sisters, as one united family and one community of the faithful in glorifying God by our lives. May God bless us all and our families, our family members wherever they may be, and may He strengthen the bond of unity and love between us, always. Amen.

Sunday, 27 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-40

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon Him.

Sunday, 27 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 11 : 8, 11-12, 17-19

It was by faith, that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going. By faith, Sarah, herself, received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that, He, Who had made the promise, would be faithful. Therefore, from an almost impotent man, were born descendants, as numerous as the stars of heaven, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore.

By faith, Abraham went to offer Isaac, when God tested him. And so, he, who had received the promise of God, offered his only son, although God had told him : Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned, that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.

Sunday, 27 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 104 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Give thanks to YHVH, call on His Name, make known His works among the nations. Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.

Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek YHVH rejoice. Look to YHVH and be strong; seek His face always.

Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments, you descendants of His servant, Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!

He remembers His Covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the Covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Sunday, 27 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 15 : 1-6 and Genesis 21 : 1-3

After this the word of YHVH was spoken to Abram in a vision : “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your Shield; your reward will be very great!”

Abram said, “My Lord YHVH, where are Your promises? I am still childless and all I have will go to Eliezer of Damascus. You have given me no children, so a slave of mine will be my heir.”

Then the word of YHVH was spoken to him again, “Eliezer will not be your heir, but a child born of you (your own flesh and blood) will be your heir.” Then YHVH brought him outside and said to him, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that.

Abram believed YHVH Who, because of this, held him to be an upright man. YHVH was kind to Sarah as He had said, and fulfilled His promise to her. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time YHVH had promised. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son that Sarah bore him.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate on this Sunday after the Solemnity of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus our Lord, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster father. On this day we honour that sacred family into whom our Lord and God had been born into this world. This is a model family from which all of our families should model after, and we should indeed heed their examples to be practiced in our own.

As we are still in the midst of the joy of the Christmas season, surely all of us are quite aware of the stories and all the things that are related to Christmas, when our Lord Jesus Christ was born into this world. It all began from the time when the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary and broke the news to her that she would be with a Child, bearing the Saviour in her womb and thus becoming the Vessel and Ark of God’s salvation for men.

And then Joseph, the man to whom Mary had been betrothed to, found out about her pregnancy, and thought that she had been unfaithful to him and committed an adultery, and even so, he tried to salvage her reputation by trying not to publicly denounce her or shame her with the revelation of her seemingly out of order pregnancy. But, when the Angel of God appeared to him in his dreams and revealed to him the truth, he faithfully devoted himself to God’s plans through Mary.

And this continued even so difficulties and challenges faced them together, beginning from the time when Mary was about to give birth to our Lord Jesus. She and Joseph had to travel the treacherous and long distance journey from their house in Nazareth in Galilee to the city of David, Bethlehem in Judea, a distance and journey that certainly no heavily pregnant woman should undertake.

But Joseph followed on very faithfully and helped to get Mary to a place where she could deliver her Child, even in a stable. He protected the newborn Child and His mother, and when the king Herod the Great, who heard of the coming of the Messiah who was prophesied to be the King of the Jews and who was jealous of Him tried to kill Jesus, Joseph guided by the Angel of God in his dream led his family into Egypt until all those who sought the death of Jesus were gone.

And Mary herself loved her Son and her husband equally well, and they together lived on in peace in Nazareth upon returning from Egypt, and as we witnessed in the Gospels, they went together to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old, in order to bring Him to the Temple of God in Jerusalem and join in the festival that was occurring there. We can be sure that they prayed together and worshipped the Lord together.

Indeed, it is likely that it was Mary and Joseph who had taught Jesus how to pray and how to live a life devoted to the Lord and to His commandments. Both Mary and Joseph were devout servants of the Lord, who practiced their faith in all their words, deeds and actions. This is a reminder to all the parents out there that it is their responsibility to teach the faith to their children and to teach them about the Lord.

And we should also note how Jesus, even though He purposefully stayed behind in the Temple of Jerusalem, and arguing with his parents that He had to be in His Father’s house, knowing His true identity as the Son of God and the Divine Word made Man, but He still obeyed His mother and His foster father, followed them and obeyed them as He grew up in the reckoning of man’s years.

This reminds us that children should listen to their parents and learn the right things that they teach them. And this also shows that a family that lives in harmony and love will persevere and prosper. This is very important for us to note, as we now live in a time where the respect and the honour given to the institution of family and the values associated with family life has become lessened and lessened ever more over time.

Yes, we should all be aware how family values and the importance of families became eroded over time, and became increasingly so these days, where people could just mock the institution of families, and family life which was once sacred, had been seen by many people as merely a formality and as even a form of archaism and backwardness.

There are many who sought to destroy the fabric of families, and not least, one of the perpetrators is we ourselves. We have not understood what is the importance of families and how relevant is having a good family to us all. In particular, do we all know that families are the basic units of our faith and the Church? And why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ?

That is because, as I have just mentioned earlier on, it is usually through the family that someone hears about the faith and the Lord. It is the responsibility of the parents and or godparents, as the vow which all of them had spoken at the time of the baptism of their child, which charged them to bring these little children in good faith and understanding of their Lord’s love and will.

A strong family grounded in good faith will be the foundation of a strong Church, and a strong Church in turn will safeguard its many souls from the attacks of the evil one and from the temptation to turn into sin and wickedness. It is the basic unit of the Church, of our faith, and the family is at the frontline of our regular and constant struggle against the devil and the darkness.

And indeed, the devil knows this, and it is one of the primary objectives of the devil to strike at the heart of the family, for if the family is destroyed, then the souls of the faithful will be in great risk indeed. This is why, on this great feast of the Holy Family, let us all uphold our faith through our family. Let us restore the strength and the harmony within our families, so that together as families blessed by God, each of our family members will be able to resist the devil and his assaults.

May the Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, Who loved and obeyed His earthly parents and listened to them, and Mary, the Mother of God, whose faith and devotion were exemplary, and St. Joseph, foster father of our Saviour in his commitment and hard works inspire us all to do the same with our own families. God bless us and our families, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 41-52

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s House?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them. As for His mother, she kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in divine and human favour.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-2, 21-24

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children and what we shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when He appears in His glory, we know that we shall be like Him, for then we shall see Him as He is.

When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as He has commanded us.

Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know He lives in us.

Alternative reading

Colossians 3 : 12-21

Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of Him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful. Let the word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom.

With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise. And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that pleases the Lord. Parents, do not be too demanding of your children, lest they become discouraged.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 83 : 2-3, 5-6, 9-10

How lovely are Your rooms, o Lord of hosts! My soul yearns, pines, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy the pilgrims whom You strengthen, to make the ascent to You.

O Lord of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, o God of Jacob! Look upon Your shield, o God; look upon the face of Your anointed!

Alternative reading

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 1 : 20-22, 24-28

And Hannah became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said : “I have asked YHVH to give him to me.”

Once more Elkanah went to the Temple with his family to offer his yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow to YHVH. Hannah would not go along but she said to her husband, “I will bring the child there as soon as he is weaned. He shall be presented to YHVH and stay there forever.”

When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three year old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to YHVH’s House at Shiloh. The child was still young. After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli.

Hannah exclaimed : “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to YHVH. I asked for this child and YHVH granted me the favour I begged of Him. Now, I think, YHVH is asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to YHVH.”

And they worshipped YHVH there.

Alternative reading

Sirach 3 : 3-7, 14-17a (Greek Septuagint version – Sirach 3 : 2-6, 12-14)

Whoever honours his father atones for his sins; he who gives glory to his mother prepares a treasure for himself. Whoever honours his father will receive joy from his own children and will be heard when he prays.

Whoever glorifies his father will have a long life. Whoever obeys the Lord gives comfort to his mother. He serves those who brought him to birth as he would serve the Lord.

For kindness done to one’s father will never be forgotten, it will serve as reparation for your sins. In the day of adversity the Lord will remember it to your advantage; for just as ice melts in the heat, so will your sins melt away. The man who abandons his father is like a blasphemer; he who annoys his mother is cursed by the Lord.

My son, conduct your affairs with discretion and you will be loved by those who are acceptable to God.