Today’s First Reading at Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph comes from verses 3:2-6, 12-14 of Sirach, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and it points to the Fourth Commandment ‘Honor your father and your mother’.
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.
When we Christians read Sirach and many of the books of the Old Testament it is very easy for us to only understand those passages in their new fulfilled meaning through Christ Jesus. For instance, in the passage above we would see God as the Father who we must honor, and our obedience and reverence to Him being the fountain of blessings to flow into our lives. Perhaps Catholics will go even further here to see the mother in this passage as being Saint Mary who God the Father has set as the mother of Son and all of His children.
I think such spiritual insights into the Old Testament are true and useful, but let us not miss the immediate application here, that there is order of things that God created for a reason. We are born of our parents, are raised and prepared by them, and eventually the child returns the gift given to them by taking care of their parents in their old age. The rich beauty of family is that God made us for each other. I don’t know any human being who does not have a mother and a father – even if they never met them, even if they hate them, even if they are dead. Each one of us are products of the seed of one man and one woman coming to together to produce a new life. Creation itself screams the beauty of monogamous relationship.
In Today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 we read about Joseph giving up the life he knew to protect the family that God gave him. For the moment the child Jesus was born the Holy Family was on the run; fleeing to foreign countries and providing for themselves the best way they could. Jesus is the child that Joseph and Mary protected and nurtured as their own who returned to sacrifice His own life so that we might have true happiness into eternity.
In many social and economy situations throughout the world today where families are struggling for their next meal and divorce is tearing them apart, I believe that this story is a perpetual reminder to us that God’s grace is always working to keep families together, and to protect them even through the worst situations. All we need to do is listen for God’s voice and to follow the path that He has set before us. When we as a family honor God together and place Him over our all of our affairs, everything always works out for the best. Therefore, let us not supplant God’s desires and goals for our family with our own. For, the road to Hell and destruction is always paved with our own ambitions.
Jesus, you have come into the world for me;
so help me preserve in the world for those you love and for those who hate you.
Your Father sent you for our sake;
so send me as the Father sent you for the sake of my neighbors.
After doing all that you came here to do you returned home to your Father in Glory;
so after I have done all that you created me to do, call me home to glory to live with you forever and ever.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.