The Sunday After Christmas, Feast of the Holy Family 
Dec. 26, Mt. 2:13-15, 19-23

Since 1969, the Feast of the Holy Family has been celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. As the name implies, the feast celebrates the family unit of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but it is obviously going to include our own families too. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is by its very make-up the epitome of family living and is to be imitated by us in our own families. And that seems to be a very big order indeed!


One of the best places to look for the elements we need to have in our families in order to have them correspond to the Holy Family is, I believe, in St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3: 12-21. I am going to paraphrase these verses here and then comment on them. I would suggest that all of us, first of all, take out our Bibles and read word for word what Paul has to say to the Colossians. (Pause for reading time).


My rendition is as follows: Put on then, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience – and if someone has a complaint against another, forgive each other. Above all be loving. Let peace rule in your hearts. Thank God for each other. Let Jesus be the way, the truth and the life for all members of the family. Wives, love your husbands. Husbands, love your wives. Children, love and obey your parents. Love them and your brothers and sisters too. Do not do things that causes anger to spring up in others. Pray for one another.


In examining this quote, I would have all of us first remember that we are Christians. And that being the case, it is not too much to ask that we be compassionate and caring, patient and loving toward each family member. For a Christian that is par for the course. Nothing extraordinary about it at all! So let’s not only call ourselves Christians, but let us act like Christians. There has to be a starting place in all of this. Hopefully, this will be it.


Next, we all do things occasionally that we don’t want to do and say things we really didn’t want to say. And in so doing, we hurt those in the close proximity of a family. Again, be Christian. Forgiveness is the Christian way. Let’s get rid of “getting back at the other person” by retaliating. Revenge is not Christian. When there is a problem between family members, be the first to make an amends to the other whether you caused the tiff or not. A little humility goes a long way. Amends can be made in the following way: “I regret it if I hurt you. Will you please forgive me?”


Next, I believe we should always treat our family members with love and respect and the dignity they have as human beings. Let’s try never to insult the other or belittle them or put them down in a negative fashion. We have a choice here: I can show love, respect and understanding or I can choose to be cruel, judgmental and critical. It is rather obvious which choice is Christian.


Let’s thank God in prayer often for the gift of your family and for all the good you are able to do for each other and receive from each other. We are all God’s gifts of grace to and for each other.


Husbands and wives, love one another dearly. Neither of you is able to be what you are meant to be or do what you are meant to do without the other. You are one. Children, love and obey your parents. Remember, someone has to be in charge and that is the parents. Is it OK for the children to question their parents and express their own opinions on things? I believe it is as long as it is done in a loving and respectful way. And then the children should listen to the explanation that will be given. Parents should respect their children and affirm them. Please, let’s try and get rid of all the shouting and angry remarks that often get in the way of good communication. All of this stuff is negative and there is just no place for it in family communication. Try and always keep our family relationships positive and affirming. The family home is not meant to be a war zone. It should be a place of love, safety, understanding and forgiveness.


Is all of this too much to ask? I really think not! It will take a bit of work to accomplish these things, but so what. I can’t think of anything worthwhile that can be obtained without work in one way or another.


And one final suggestion. I would suggest that our families follow the pattern of what we religious do to make things go smoothly in our religious families or communities. We are to hold what we call a House Chapter every month. All the members of the community meet and discuss some spiritual topic as well as anything concerning the welfare of the community. This monthly meeting is invaluable to keep us on the same track. It is hard to navigate if the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. We share with each other how we are doing personally. Health issues are discussed. What do we need to focus on to make things better? What needs to be eliminated? What are our individual needs? What are the needs of the community? What can I do for the common good? A monthly family meeting is not an impossibility and will be looked forward to once this practice starts.


I don’t know about you but my family is all I got, as they say. I want it to be the best it can be. That takes work but it is certainly worth the effort for the peace and happiness of all. And always, always, always let us remember that the Lord is there to help us.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday After Christmas, Feast of St. John the Apostle 
Dec. 27, John 20: 1-8

The Feast of St. John the Apostle or Evangelist is celebrated within the octave of Christmas on December 27. St. John was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James, also an Apostle. Jesus called both of them at the beginning of his ministry to follow him while they were working together with their father. They dropped everything and followed Jesus.


St. John is called the “beloved disciple” in the Scriptures and is often pictured lying with his head on the breast of Jesus. He is the only Apostle who did not run away during the Lord’s Passion and was at the foot of the cross with Mary as Jesus suffered and died. Later he helped spread the Gospel in Jerusalem and Ephesus. He was a rather prolific writer, being the author of the 4th Gospel, three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. The Emperor Dometian tried to kill him but failed and John then spent a year of exile on the island of Patmos. He died from old age in Ephesus around the year 100.


St. John, pray for us.


Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday After Christmas, Feast of the Holy Innocents 
Dec. 28, Mt. 2: 13-18

The Church has celebrated this feast of the Holy Innocents since the 6th century. The Holy Innocents are those children killed by Herod to take away the threat of Christ taking over his rule. They have always been regarded by the Church as martyrs. We do not know how many children were killed in this massacre.


This feast should remind us of the terrible abuses going on yet today against innocent children. We are all aware of the many abortions that occur every year. Children are used to promote pornography, turned to lives of prostitution for the gain of others, put to work in all kinds of abusive occupations, gravely punished even to the point of death just for being children. Child abuse is a huge problem in society and certainly one of the sins that cries to heaven for vengeance.


What can we do about this? Unfortunately, not as much as we would like to be able to do. One thing we can do is to stop condoning it or enabling it in any way. If we become aware of or see any child abuse going on around us, don’t look the other way! Report it to the proper authorities so help can be obtained for these innocent children. Let’s do all we possibly can to help eradicate this problem from our society.


Fr. Howard


The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas 
Dec. 29, Luke 2: 22-35

Today’s Gospel tells of the circumcision, naming, and presentation of the child Jesus in the temple. Jewish law stated that the firstborn in a family had to be taken to the temple and consecrated (set aside) to the Lord. This was done by paying 5 shekels to a priest or sacrificing turtledoves if the child was female. This Gospel shows Mary and Joseph to be law-abiding Jews.


Upon arriving at the temple, the Holy Family meets Simeon and Anna, both of whom are faithful Jews waiting for the coming redemption. We know nothing more about Simeon or Anna. In the Gospel for today, Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart because of the sufferings to be endured by her child and at the same time he is telling all of us that following the teachings and values of this child will not be an easy task. The message here seems to be: To love Jesus is to suffer with him. I think all of us come to believe this as we go through the years of our lives trying to faithfully follow the ways of the Lord Jesus. And we must always remember that we cannot do it alone.


Lord, please help us to embrace your way, truth and life always even when the rough stretches of road open before us.


Fr. Howard

 


The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas 
Dec. 30, Luke 2: 36-40

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of yesterday’s and focuses on Anna, the prophetess. The message is pretty much the same as yesterday. We know little about Anna except the few things stated in the Gospel.


This Gospel kind of brings to an end the infancy narratives of the canonical Gospels. Just enough to wet the appetite but not enough to answer the million and one questions about the childhood of Jesus. There are any number of apocryphal Gospels about Jesus’ childhood years but the common criticism of them is that they are not true to the common picture painted of Jesus in the Gospels. However, there may be some truth in some of these stories and legends. Some of them are fun to read. The truth of all this will have to wait until we come to see the Lord face to face in the eternal life that awaits us.


Fr. Howard


The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas 
Dec. 31, John 1: 1-18

Today is New Year’s Eve. We come to the end of another year. Isn’t it kind of peculiar that our Gospel for this day that marks the end of the year is from the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel and begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” So what is it? Beginning or end? Perhaps there isn’t really that much difference since every end gives way to a new beginning, and I think this is the inference of our Gospel for today.


2010 is over. Everything we did or said during that year is now part of the past. I cannot undo one thing I did or change one thing I said during that time. It is past and it is gone. How does this make us feel? Does it bring feelings of guilt, regret, shame, joy, happiness? What?


What are our hopes for the new beginning that follows the end? Am I, like the Word, going to begin being with God? “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not understand it.”


Let us try and do away with any darkness we find in our lives as we begin this New Year. Let us begin in the Light, let us begin positively and put aside darkness and negativity. Let us live as children of the Light letting the Light illumine our lives and spread to the lives of others.


Lord, help us begin this New Year with you as our friend.


HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011 TO YOU ALL!!!!


Fr. Howard

 


New Years Day, Solemnity of the B.V.M., Mother of God 
Jan. 1, Luke 2: 16-21

Today we begin a New Year in our lives. Traditionally it is a time to make resolutions for the coming year. I am going to do this, this, this and this. I’m going to get rid of this, this, this and this. And on and on it goes every year. We have the whole coming year planned out and it is indeed going to be a saintly year for me. My, how I am going to change. How many times have we done this or thought in this way? And yet we know, we just know, that in two weeks time we’ll be right back to being the old me. All the new resolutions have been broken a dozen times and rationalized out of sight and off we go for another year of the same old same old and frustration at our failing efforts to change.


What is the answer to this problem? Is there a solution? Well, of course there is. Sort of! I thought you would never ask!


Years ago when I entered the Program of AA with hopes of remaining sober for the rest of my life, I was told at meetings never to say to myself or others: I will never take another drink of alcohol as long as I live. That is not the way to do it because sure as God made green apples you’ll be swigging down the booze again in a week’s time. What we are to say is: With God’s help, I will not take a drink of alcohol today. And this is also the answer to making changes in our lives. Try and do it, with God’s help, one day at a time.


This whole idea is well expressed in an old Sanskrit Proverb that I try and read every so often. It goes like this:


Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lies all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power —


For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.


Look well, therefore, to this day.


Hopefully, this is how we will try and live the days of the new year that is upon us: One day at a time. I would suggest making a copy of the Proverb above and taking a look at it often. It is a good reminder to true spiritual growth.


Fr. Howard

 

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