As in many years, I was blessed to spend this special day with my parents and some of my siblings at my parents' church. This is the church I attended in my youth, Immaculate Conception.
The Feast of the Holy Family provides Christian families everywhere a glance into family life. The first reading from Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 reminds us that God set forth the structure of families and how we are to treat one another.
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.
The last portion of the second reading is one that always draws a reaction from families. In Collossians 3:17-21, we hear these words.
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.
Husbands glance at wives to see their reaction to the word 'subordinate'. Wives glance back at their husbands, perhaps remembering harsh words spoken recently.
Both parents look at their children, silently remembering to bring up this lesson about obeying parents in everything at a later time. Parents may not notice the part about not provoking their children, but the kids do.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear that Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to the safety of Egypt to escape King Herod, who plans to kill Jesus.
Honoring our parents, respecting our spouse, and treating our children with kindness can be difficult at times. Parents can be annoying to children. Spouses don't always act in loving ways.
Children don't always behave as they should, especially during the rebellious teen years. Parents often focus on the things their children do wrong instead of showing unconditional love.
As parents age, their bodies and minds may fail. There may be a role reversal as adult children are called to serve in a parenting role to their elderly parents.
Even though it can be challenging at times, it's important for adult children to always treat their parents with kindness, love and respect.
Talk to them, not about them. Ask for their guidance and advice. Help them when needed without making them feel helpless. Guide them as they once guided you.
Being a family isn't always easy but, as Fr. David McEvoy said during his homily, "It's worth the challenge." The family is the circle where we should always feel welcome and accepted.
Home should be a safe haven from the world's disapproval and criticism. Family should be the people we can always turn to for a helping hand and a kind word.
As we move forward through the year, take time to think about the Holy Family as you parent your children. Be sure that your words and actions reflect the unconditional love they need to thrive.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is located in Leavenworth, Kansas. The parish was officially united with St. Joseph Catholic Church in 2008.
Fr. David wasn't at Immaculate Conception when I was a child, but he was raised in our church and became pastor in 2000. Fr. David is always warm and welcoming to all visitors including the many visiting members of our family.