Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Homily Feast of the Holy Family 30 December 2007

The late Cardinal O’Connor of New York…
once told this story…related to him by a nun and former schoolteacher…
in a homily on this very Feast of the Holy Family

Sister often had trouble filling the lesser roles in the Christmas pageant.
Everyone wanted to be Joseph, Mary, or the angel, or a shepherd.
None of the little boys and girls wanted to be an innkeeper.

One year, a little boy reluctantly accepted the role
and when Mary and Joseph came…and Joseph knocked on the door…
the little boy, the innkeeper…added his own insight to his role.
He opened the door and said:
"Well, we do not have any room for you to stay
but why don't you come in and have a cup of coffee!”

Of course, the Scriptures mention nothing about the Holy Family stopping for a latte.

Yet, something struck Cardinal O’Conner so much that he retold this story.
His own words were:
“What a trusting family that youngster must live in! What love that youngster must be taught, to reach out to others in this fashion. That is a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Truly…a little boy who so naturally reacts in a generous way…
must have been taught and shown generosity at home.
He no doubt saw his parents offer hospitality in their home…as best they could.
It is one of the great joys of every priest’s life
that he is able to enter into the lives of many families…
teach them, learn from them, and be blessed by knowing them.
It has been my joy to meet and get to know so many families
since beginning my first assignment here at Saint Michael’s…
parents that live and pass on to their children the values of our faith:
generosity, selflessness, devotion to God and the Church.

Sadly, though, we do not have to look any further than the evening news
to realize that many families in our world…even in our own community…
have not embraced God’s brilliant design for human life and love.

Tragically, there are families where God is unheard of…
families where marriage is not revered as a sacred bond and lifetime commitment…
where sexuality is separated from the gift of life…
and where the lives of children are not valued.

The Sacred Scriptures today
teach us about the authentic meaning and vocation of families.

Above all, the lesson we gain
is that the life and love of a truly holy family
finds its foundation and source in the life and love of God.

We know from Scripture that God is a communion of persons…
Father…Son…and Holy Spirit…
who are eternally and constantly in relationship with one another.
Since human persons are created in the image and likeness of God…
the self-giving, unconditional love of God
and the loving communion of persons in God
become the image of the love to which we are called.

In other words, we are created to love as God loves.
In the unconditional love of God is found the perfect image of family life.

The family is the basic building block of society.
The family is the domestic church…the first school of life and of the faith.
The family is where young people are formed,
where they learn the lessons and values…
whether for good or for worse…
that will shape the rest of their lives.

The lives and relationships of every Christian family
are meant to be centered in God
and are meant to be living images of His presence in our souls.

Most significantly, this means that parents and children…
because they are members of a family…a unique communion of persons…
are called to give of themselves out of love for one another.

Parents are to be revered, cared for, and obeyed by their children.
To really love God means to keep the Fourth Commandment with sincerity.

Parents are called by God to teach and form their children
into mature gentlemen and ladies,
who are able to face the world with wisdom and faith.

That means teaching them the difficult and uncomfortable lessons about life, too:
that God comes first…and family immediately thereafter
that you can’t always have everything you want right now
that life involves sacrifice, hard work, and sometimes suffering.

The example of parents who live a holy marriage in the Lord
is invaluable for their children.
The silent lessons of love and fidelity shown by a mother and father
who sacrifice for each other and for the good of the family
are of tremendous influence and significance.

Even in difficult situations…separated and blended families…
there must be a constant commitment to doing whatever it takes
to live the love of God for the good of the young people.

Saint Paul is often criticized for saying:
“Wives, be subordinate to your husbands…”
Yet, it is critical to recall that he also says in another place:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.”

Saint John Chrysostom remarks that much more is asked of the husband,
who is called to love his wife as Christ loves the Church…
by being willing even to die for her sake!
The lesson we learn from Saint Paul is that husbands and wives
are called to mutual self-giving…
that both are called to sacrifice for the other…
and for the sake of the family.
This radical self-giving love…after the pattern of God…who is Love itself…
is the vocation of every family.

The challenge for all of you is to live this love…and to be witnesses of it…
just like the hospitable little innkeeper!

Your perfect model in this great journey is the Holy Family…
whose life and love we celebrate today.
Their life was anything but ordinary…and surely filled with challenges…
and yet they persevered in peace and grace
because they never turned away from God and one another.

Literally, they were centered on Christ…as parents of Jesus.
So, too, your lives are to be centered on Christ!

The fabric of our world can only be repaired and strengthened
by the love, dedication, and witness of holy families.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life will only increase
if the seeds God plants are nourished in holy families.

My dear friends, be holy families!
For through you God desires to renew the world!

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