Archbishop's Homilies 2003

Mass for the Feast of The Holy Family

Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 28th December, 2003, at 11.00am

Introduction

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we remember the mystery of Jesus living with his parents. Today we meditate on Christ from whom all Christian families can learn.

Mary and Joseph did not find their role easy because their child led them to follow step by step in the unfolding of his mystery. As they submitted completely to God’s Will, let us ask that in our family life we will see beyond the events of one or other moment and gently and courageously go forward to draw our family to follow the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

As we call to mind our sins, let us remember the struggles of family life, the failures and the joys, that we may walk after the pattern of the Holy Family.

Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A mother sent her small daughter on a message to the shop telling her to hurry straight home. Two hours later the girl returned. The mother asked anxiously, ‘Where have you been?” The little girl said, ‘I am sorry I am late, but I met my friend, Lucy, and she broke her doll and I had to help her fix it.” The mother said, “How could you help her fix her doll? You do not know anything about it.” The girl said, “I knew that, so I just helped her cry.”

Life in families is very much the time and generosity we give. You and I have often been challenged by the knowledge that family is God’s gift to me. Mother Teresa put it, “Maybe in our own family we have someone who is feeling lonely, or sick, or worried. Are we there? Let us know and love the poor in our own families first. We have old people; they are put away in institutions and are never visited, with less and less time even to smile at each other … with less and less time to be together. Love begins at home. If only we can make our own homes temples of love.”

Today’s Readings are a wonderful compendium of some of the things we ought concentrate on in family life. Sirach advocates loving care among family members, especially to the old. He knew that it was within the family that future believers were nourished physically, as well as morally and spiritually. Faith learned, lived and passed on from one generation to the next.

Despite the challenges to the family in today’s society, we Catholics have special gifts here. Reverence of children for parents can lead to riches, long life and even forgiveness of sins. The respect and reverence that we have makes a shelter into a home and a group of people into a family. It is likely that the reverence that the members of the Holy Family had for each other helped them cope with the difficulties in their lives.

Look at this list. A betrothed man feels jilted. Words at the child’s presentation in the temple cause anxiety. Political threat makes them refugees. They hide in Nazareth after their return. Jesus runs away in Jerusalem. Mary is puzzled with her Son’s plans in Cana. The Son is arrested and executed in his prime. A mother is left by her dying Son in the care of a non-relative.

Truly we can say all the ups and downs of ordinary families were there at Nazareth and yet Saint Paul tells the Colossians, “You are God’s chosen ones. Do whatever you do in the name of the Lord, Jesus.” Because God’s Word finds its home in us he strengthens and guides us.

What is perhaps most significant of all in the Gospel story is that Jesus, the Messiah, did not thrust himself upon society as a child prodigy. He knew who he was as God and human. Yet it was not until he was thirty that he made a public appearance. Until that time he remained faithful to the ordinary details of family life.

A modern writer, David Thomas, made in 1989 a set of Beatitudes on family forgiveness. They are worth thinking about.
Blessed are those humble enough to remain human;
they will thrive with healthy family bonds.
Blessed are those who have genuine sorrow;
the rest of the family will console and support them.
Blessed are those who can admit to their mistakes;
they will remain within the family’s embrace.
Blessed are those who hunger to forgive;
the family will offer them many opportunities.
Blessed are those whose lips say I’m sorry;
the same will be spoken to them.
Blessed are those whose hearts burn with generous forgiveness;
they will know God’s forgiveness of them.
Blessed are those who work for family peace;
they will be counted as members of God’s family.
Blessed are those who are willing to overcome misunderstanding;
they will be given a deeper understanding of God’s forgiving love.
We make our own the opening prayer of the Mass, ‘Father, help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.’ We do so as each of us thanks God for the family in which we were nurtured and ask God to be with those whom he has given us.

 

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.