I Chronicles 15:3-4,15-16,16:1-2; Galatians 4:4-7; Psalm 98; Luke 11:27-28
In previous years, when I have been the homilist on this Feast, I have gone over the history of it and the record of the events of Mary’s early life from the Protoevangelon of James, so I am not going to do that again. This morning I am going to talk about something else, I am going to talk about families.
If we look through the Bible, starting in Genesis, where God established the first family and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony between Adam and Eve, the whole history of salvation is carried out in families. Noah and his family, chosen by God to survive the flood and rescue the animals from the water; Abraham and Sarah, through whom the First Covenant is given, their son Isaac and his wife Rebecca, and on through Jacob and Rachel and Jacob’s twelve sons, founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Moses, Aaron and Miriam, who led them out of Egypt; through the tribes of Israel to the family of Jesse, King David’s father, and through King David to Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Forerunner, Joachim and Anna, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and to Joseph spouse of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord Jesus. And tucked in here and there we also have Hannah and Samuel, Ruth and Naomi, Tobias, and the Maccabees.
Families are the basic unit of society, and the basic unit of the Church, the Church itself is constituted as a family, the family of God, with Christ as our eldest Brother. We call one another brothers and sisters, Mother and Father. When we enter the Church through Baptism, as an infant we have Godparents, who assure our upbringing in the Faith; as adults we have Sponsors who perform the same function, we become part of a new family in which we will, hopefully, live out our lives, and our eternity.
Families are so important that God the Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, was born into one. He was subject to Joseph and Mary as an infant and young child, and he followed Joseph’s trade of carpentry. Why would God want to be raised in a human family? Even the best of families, which we can suppose this one was, have their uncomfortable and unpleasant times. And they were not rich, or even what we would call middle-class. They were poor, hard-working members of a conquered and despised people.
Why? For many deep, divine and salvific reasons, including the redeeming of this basic unit begun with Adam and Eve, from the ground up, as it were. God being born to one family, touches, redeems and heals all families, sanctifies parenthood and childhood, blesses those who work and sacrifice for the sake of their families and makes of every home a holy place. This is the reality of the family in Christ; but do we always enter into and live this truth? – No. But it is always there, underlying and upholding all our efforts, it is there as a beacon to light our way as we grope for truth and light in this dark and fallen world, that seems, at times, determined to tear down all that God has built up. We have a sacred obligation, to the best of our ability, with God’s help, to make our homes and families places of refuge from this world, places of peace and the practice of our Faith. I am sure that some of us are asking ourselves, “Is this even possible?” With our own strength, energy and resources, again – No. But we can clear the ground and create an environment, to quote Auntie Leila, of “order and wonder”, in which the seeds of faith can grow. This is not easy, it takes discipline, self-control, sacrifice, organization and, at least to some extent, cooperation. It also takes, in my opinion, the willingness to limit the use of, and use great discernment with electronic media, especially that aimed at children. TV’s, video games, mp3 players, cell phones, smart phones, and even my favorite, e readers, can steal not only time but energy, imagination, the ability to work with others, hold a conversation and deal with life as it is in a constructive and positive way. This is true for both children and adults. Children are so overwhelmed by the choices available in our consumerist culture, both of products and behavior, that, as adults and parents we need to be attentive guides to what is good and true and beautiful. And to do that, we need to know for ourselves what is good and true and beautiful.
Our Faith teaches us that goodness, truth and beauty are found in God, and through our relationship with God in Christ we are enabled to see them in the world, in other people and in ourselves. This is why families are important in the Church, to live this life, to teach these truths, to build a little corner of the Kingdom of God in each home. We will fail at this, but we need not despair, even the Holy Family had their ups and downs. Fr. Thomas Hopko, in a lecture we were listening to the other day, reminded us how Mary and Joseph started for home leaving their young son behind in Jerusalem. I’m sure their panic was similar to ours when we become separated at the Mall.
We will fail, but we will also succeed, we will fall down and we will get up, the essential thing is to keep trying, to live our faith together, no matter how uneven the sharing, how unequal the burden. We must always remember that we are not in this struggle alone, we are members of God’s family, God is a member of our family, the Saints, the angels, our brothers and sisters in the Church, our Holy Mother Mary herself, whose birthday we celebrate today, are all working with us, praying for us, comforting, guarding and guiding us.
So, on this Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the Mother of God, let us thank God for our families, and pray that we will be enabled to carry out our mission of faith in our homes, and that every family may become a holy family.
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