Homily for Christmastide: Feast of the Holy Family (C)The Church shows great wisdom in dedicating this Sunday after the Solemnity of Christmas to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Today, the Church's 1 billion Catholics are all thanking God for the gift of the family, and asking for God's help to live family life as he designed it to be lived.
And he did design it; it was his idea.
- From the very beginning, he created us male and female – husband and wife, father and mother.
- And after original sin shattered his original design, he redeemed us by sending a savior into a family, thereby restoring and reaffirming his commitment to work in this world through family life.
- We will probably never know all the reasons behind God's decision to make family life so central to his creation and redemption.
- But we can certainly identify some of them.
- One of the most important reasons is to show us that life, every human life, is a precious gift that comes directly from God.
- None of us can produce another human being alone, the way an artist produces a painting or a bricklayer produces a wall.
- Human life comes from the union of two loving spouses, a union which God often blesses with the conception of a child.
It also comes across in today's Gospel, where Jesus shows his first allegiance to be towards his heavenly Father, not his earthly parents.
And the same goes for us – for every single human being.
None of us is a simple “product” of science or chance; none of us are the result of a “mistake”: we are all beloved children of God, called to live forever with him in heaven.
This is the reason behind the Church's uncompromising position on all moral issues regarding the dignity of human life.
- Human beings are unique members of this earth, created in God’s image, and, though fallen, destined for eternal glory.
- The other creatures around us, from rhinos to rain forests, are beautiful and marvelous and deserving of our respectful and responsible use, but they do not share the same dignity as a human being.
- In fact, the entire physical universe is less valuable than the tiniest human embryo, because the universe will pass away, but every human soul will live forever.
Take for example the most recent [November 2009] report of the United Nations Population Fund.
- It concludes that families should be rewarded for refusing to have children, because children perpetuate the polluting of the earth:
- “Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendents... Hence, the emissions savings from intended or planned births multiply with time.”
- Certainly, we are called to use and develop the earth's resources responsibly, but the earth is not more important than the people who inhabit it.
- In fact, it's for us people, you, me, and even our ornery neighbors – that God made the earth in the first place.
Few truths of our faith have more practical consequences than this truth that every human life is a gift from God, a sacred reality.
The first and most important practical consequence is that we need to take care of our own lives.
- We are royalty, members of God's family, called to fulfill a mission in God's eternal plan of salvation.
- That matters.
- And we need to act like it matters.
- We need to keep our hearts strong and free from sin, using frequently and wisely the gifts of prayer, Holy Communion, and confession.
- We need to guard ourselves from temptation by exercising self-discipline in how we spend our time, money, and talents.
- We need to remember that the devil "prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour," as the Bible tells us (1 Peter 5:8).
- He wants to lead us away from God, precisely because he knows how much God cares for us.
- We are so used to focusing on their failures, foibles, and imperfections, that we tend to take them for granted.
- But God never takes them for granted.
- Instead, he takes each of us by the hand, loving us without condemning us, and leading us along the path of redemption.
- And we are called to do the same, to be God's messengers, to be living signs of his love for those around us by how we treat one another.
He goes beyond the surface appearances and sees all of us as we truly are: created in his image and destined for everlasting glory.
Today, let's ask him to teach us to do the same.