THEME: ST. JOSEPH – A MODEL FOR FATHERS
READINGS: 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28/1 John 3:1-2, 21-24/ Luke 2:41-52
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The nativity of Jesus Christ calls for celebrating the family into which He was born. In doing so, Christian families should learn from the Holy Family of St. Joseph, Mother Mary and the child Jesus. This homily though focuses on St. Joseph for two reasons. Firstly, the year dedicated to St. Joseph ended in this month. Secondly, we will have the opportunity to talk about Mother Mary on New Year’s Day.
St. Joseph exhibited what it means to love one’s wife in good and bad times in several ways. In the first place, because of his love for Mother Mary, St. Joseph decided to divorce her quietly when he found her pregnant without any marital encounter between them (Matt. 1:18-20). St. Joseph’s decision was made to avert any danger to the life of his betrothed. If you are married, the question is: how do you react to your spouse when you feel offended by him/her? Does your reaction take into consideration the safety, security or general well-being of your spouse?
Secondly, true love for Mother Mary made St. Joseph accept as credible the message he received in a dream about her pregnancy. Without a precedence of a virgin conceiving without any intercourse, only true love for Mother Mary could have made St. Joseph open to the message of his dream. True love overcomes the spirit of suspicion and gives enough room for the benefit of doubt. Therefore, if you are married, the question is: are you often suspicious of your spouse or do you give your spouse adequate space for the benefit of doubt?
Thirdly, only true love could have made St. Joseph journey with the expectant Mother Mary to Bethlehem as well as care and provide for her to ensure her safe delivery. Like the journey to Bethlehem, marital love is a lifelong journey during which spouses care and provide for each other. Therefore, if you are married, do you still adequately care and provide for the needs of your spouse (and children)?
Fourthly, true love motivated St. Joseph to make a longer journey to Egypt to escape threat to the life of the child Jesus and possibly to the life of Mother Mary. Without true love and from a purely human perspective, St. Joseph would have said of the child: “your conception disrupted my planned normal marital life, your birth has turned the whole nation into confusion and I have the trouble of taking you and your mother away to Egypt. Probably, my dreams are merely dreams and this whole venture is not from God.” On the contrary, true love made St. Joseph take the right decision and act accordingly. If you are married, then, what is your reaction when, apparently or in reality, a child or your spouse is the cause of crisis in your family?
Furthermore, once St. Joseph understood that his marital love had been raised to another level because of the divine mission, he executed to perfection his role as the spiritual leader of the Holy Family. He remained the spiritual leader of his family despite the higher spiritual status of Mother Mary and the divine nature of the child Jesus. In this regard, he communicated to Mother Mary the angelic messages he received in his dreams and ensured that they acted accordingly. Also, he ensured that the child Jesus was dedicated in the Temple of Jerusalem in accordance with the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-24). In addition, he ensured that his family made the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50), etc.
Similarly, fathers of families should become true spiritual leaders of their respective families. In this role, they should ensure that the family gathers around the Word of God at home to discern His messages. Also, they should ensure that the family members are dedicated to God through the reception of the Sacraments. As far as the reception of the Sacraments are concerned, I wish to encourage the regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Years ago, I observed in a previous parish where I ministered, that a few families (parents together with their children who were communicants) visited the Confessional on monthly basis (and took turns to confess their sins, waited for each person do their penance and then return to their homes). This is worthy of emulation by other families.
In addition, as St. Joseph ensured the regular visit to the Temple, so fathers should ensure that their families go for worship together, at least, every Sunday. Once again, like St. Joseph who appreciated the higher spiritual status of Mother Mary and the child Jesus, fathers who discern that their spouses or children have some spiritual gifts or calling (vocation) should assist in fostering them to the highest level for the good of the community and the glory of God. They should in no circumstance discourage their children who may receive the call to priestly or religious vocation from responding appropriately to God.
Finally, through the intercession of St. Joseph and Mother Mary and the unique mediation of Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Heavenly Father may mutual love be re-enkindled in many Christian marriages and families. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis