“They knew profound hope”: A homily on the Holy Family

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Nativity scene at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Forest Hills, NY (photo: Deacon Greg Kandra)

This family knew profound hope.

They trusted completely in God. They call all of us to that kind of trust. And they are with us. In our own time, they stand beside all who worry, who struggle, who search, who pray.

The Holy Family stands beside parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare.

They walk with immigrants and refugees separated from those they love.

They comfort teenage mothers and single parents.

They console the prisoner, the outcast, the bullied, the scorned—and the parents who love them.

And they offer solace and compassion to any mother or father grieving over the loss of a child.

The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God.

They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.

We might ask ourselves where we can find that kind of peace and purpose in our own families, in our own lives.

One answer is in Paul’s beautiful letter to the Colossians.

This passage that we hear today is sometimes read at weddings. Like Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, it speaks eloquently of love.

But Paul wasn’t writing about romantic love. This letter is about how to form a healthy and holy Christian community.

And from his words, we can draw lessons about how to form a healthy and holy Christian family.

Put on compassion, Paul tells us. Kindness. Lowliness. Meekness. Patience. Forgiveness. And love.

It is all that simple — and all that difficult. I’m sure the Holy Family had moments when living those virtues seemed hard, or even impossible. But they did things most of us don’t. They listened to angels. They dreamed.

And they gave themselves fully to God.

They made of their lives a prayer.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we need to remember where we look today and remember to look toward the crèche.  There is our model for living: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But we need to see them in full, remembering the closeness of the cross. That was their life and it’s ours, too.  Yet, through all their hardships, in a time of anxiety and difficulty, persecution and tragedy—a time very much like our own–they showed us how to be people of faith, people of forgiveness, people of love.

They show us, in other words, how to be holy.

— From a homily for Feast of the Holy Family, 2012. Read it all 

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