Sunday, January 13, 2013

Holy Mary, St. Joseph, pray for us, pray for our families. Child Jesus help us to love you more so that we can love each other more.

Sunday January 13th, Feast of the Holy Family Extraordinary Form.

In today’s Gospel we can wonder how it would be possible for Mary and Joseph to lose Jesus. The answer actually leads us to a deeper understanding of what a healthy family structure in society should look like. And since family is the very foundation of society, and is the domestic Church, its important grow in our understanding of what a healthy family structure should look like.

In the time of Jesus, Mary and Joseph the family in the nation of Israel was understood in a very different way than we understand family today. Family in the
time of the Holy Family was understood in a much broader way. Family was understood in a tribal way. Family was much more than just mom, dad and the kids; family was understood as the whole tribe.

One’s family was made up of aunts, uncles and cousins. In fact in the time of Jesus the Hebrew language didn’t even have a word for cousins; One cousins were considered one’s brother and sisters; hence, the “brothers and sisters” of the Lord. The notion of family also went beyond those who were alive at the time. Family included one’s anscestors and one’s progeny. Members of the family always acted in a way not to bring shame on the ancestors; and actions were measured on how they would affect the members of the family to be born.

Jesus was then able to be lost because Mary and Joseph just assumed he was with the other members of the family; his brothers and sisters, that is the cousins and the rest of the tribe. This tribal notion of family is actually the healthest family structure there is; and societies with this type of stucture are healthy societies. When society starts to fail it is because the tribal family begins to fail. Good Socialogists tell us that the beginning of this failure is for the family to move from a tribal family to a nuclear family structure; that is, to an idea of family merely as mom, dad and the kids; yes cousins and aunts and uncles are there but not they are seperated into their own nuclear family.

History has proven time and time again that once the family becomes a nuclear family it’s only short matter of time before the family collaspes even further. And the last step before the complete breakdown of society is the atomistic family. In this last death gasp of society family becomes merely something for the children to break free of. Mom and dad, especially the dad, are seen as idiots. Children must then break free of such a oppresive structure. Eventually the state tries to take over, even by force, the authority of mom and dad and so the raising and rearing of the children in order to be proper citizens-comrades, party members.

How do we reverse this breakdown of the family structure and so the breakdown of our society that we are witnessing in our own day. Surely now families are more and more moving from the nuclear family to the atomistic family structure (we see this on television-comercials; homor Simpon-dad is portrayed as an idiot and mom not much better. Its clear that in our socity the tribal notion of family died long ago. The Holy Family, of Jesus, Mary and Joseph gives us the lessons and so the answers we need to strengthen our families.

The first lesson and the first in order of importance is that both Our Lady and St. Joseph were open to God's grace and direction in their lives to make everything work out. The Holy Family was a family of prayer, they put the first commandment first--to Love God first and foremost in everything they did. As is always the case with any family “the family the prays together stays together.”

In our age, only families that pray together will survive. Prayer helps the family have a proper order; that is, God and His Will first and foremost in the family’s daily life. By this proper ordering, the husband and wife will have and maintain the mutual respect toward one another and pass this on to their children. The Holy family will help us to pray, to allow our families to enter into a deep union with them and with the child Jesus.

And if this deep union with Jesus is too take place the family must more fully partack of the sacraments of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist and confession. However, it is confession that I would like to speak on today. As with prayer, couples can only be open to God’s grace and direction in their lives if they are in a state of grace. They realized their failings in loving God and in loving each other and their children and this leads them to seek Gods forgiveness in the Sacrament of forgiveness- confession. Receiving God’s mercy, his forgiveness, his healing, and his grace and help, allows them to forgive each other and themselves for their sins and failures in the family life. A priest must encourage every couple to receive the sacrament of penance, or reconciliation, before their wedding and many, many times after.

How many couples today, because they do not bother with this sacrament of forgiveness, are in mortal sin, beginning on their wedding day; they receive a sacrilegious communion at their wedding Mass; and they go right on for years in mortal sin -- right to the divorce court. They have put up a barrier to God's grace in their individual lives and in their marriage. It is a legal marriage, it is a sacrament, but they don't let Christ work with them. Is it any wonder so many, even "Catholic," marriages are destined to failure, because the door to that marriage is closed to Jesus Christ. Individuals as well as married couples and their children will only be able to practice forgiving one another to the extent they participate in receiving the forgiveness of God in the Sacrament of Confession. Our families are not sinless like the Holy Family, therefore our family life needs the gift of forgiving one another to survive.

The second lesson husbands and wives can learn from Our Lady and St. Joseph, is that of sacrifice for one another and to God in obedience. Neither one of them was forced to go along with God's plan for our redemption; they were obedient to God’s will and law as seen in their going to Jerusalem to fulfill the prescripts of the law. Once they were married, their lives changed drastically. But they were willing to make the sacrifices for one another, and defer to one another when necessary, to make their life together work successfully-they loved and obeyed God and one another.

Too often today, couples don't seem to realize that when they marry, they are called to sacrifice their individual lives, for the good of their relationship and for the good of the family. That's sacrifice for that person were supposed to love more than anyone else. If a person is not willing to make that sacrifice, and many other sacrifices over the years for that other person, a marriage and a family is going to have a lot of difficulties.

And this common life they are undertaking includes children. The couple must sacrifice their individual lives for the sake of children. They must first sacrifice their own desires and wants and be open to all the children that God wishes to bless them with. Marriage was given to us by God, to share in his own life giving love, his own fruitfulness; it is done in obedience with love. Jesus was the center of Mary and Joseph’s lives. Couples that adopt a contraceptive mentality can only damaged themselves individually and collectively by their unwillingness to sacrifice themselves for the sake of children. The contraceptive mentality leads to divorce and family problems and breakups and the contraceptive mentality if it is not reversed, it will go down in history as the cause of the collaspe of Western Civilization.

Finally, St. Joseph and Our Lady must have been each other's best friend. He refused to turn her over to be stoned for adultery. They shared the greatest secret the world has ever known, just between themselves for many years. They were able to wander around Palestine and Egypt alone with their Child for a long time. They were happy to "make do" with what they had, and together be able to adapt to any circumstance. They actually liked one another.

Too often, in marriages based upon romance, when the initial passion fades, the couple realizes that they neither know each other very well, nor like each other very much. Marry your best friend. When a husband and wife are best friends, they are content with one another, and are able to excuse one another's shortcomings and faults. If that marital friendship ever breaks apart, there is still the possibility that it can be repaired, because the foundation upon which that friendship was based is still there. Lots of times best friends fight, sometimes they get so angry with one another that they quit being friends for a time. But if there was once a foundation of friendship, there is always hope for reconciliation. And if a married couple realizes they are not best friends, and never were, with God's grace, and some work on their part, they can learn to become best friends.

And speaking of friendship brings up another point with regards to children. Jesus was obedient to Joseph and Mary. The Son of God became humble and obedient to the very creatures he created, because they were His parents. While husband and wives need to base their relationship on friendship, their relationship with their children must be different. Parents cannot be their children’s friends--their equals, they must be their parents. Children can never repay their parents back for the gift of life and all the sacrifices the parents make for the children, and because of this the children owe their parents respect and admiration. They must learn from Jesus who did not put himself equal with His parents, he was obedient.

But as with the relationship between the husband and wife is nourished by all the things I have already said, so the relationship between the parents and the children must be based on love and mutual respect and be nourished by prayer together and seeking out God’s forgiveness.

While we have much more to learn from the Holy Family these are just a few points although very important ones at that. Openness to God grace through prayer, especially prayer together as a family and confession, Love for each other that demands sacrifice, friendship of the couple with each other, but not with their children in the same sense, these are the lessons we learn today from that very human couple we know as Our Lady and St. Joseph. May their example keep our families strong.

Holy Mary, St. Joseph, pray for us, pray for our families. Child Jesus help us to love you more so that we can love each other more.
(This homily is greatly indebted to Msgr. Petty, R.I.P.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Holy Mary, stella Maris, stella orientis—Holy Mary, star of the sea, star of the east pray for us, lead us, and others through us, safely to Jesus. Amen.

Feast of the Epiphany. Sunday January 6th, 2013

Today we continue our Celebration of Christmas—The feast of Hope with the Feast of the Epiphany-the manifestation of God. In this feast, the Nativity of the Lord once again illuminates the darkness that often surrounds our world and our hearts with his light, bringing hope and joy. Where does this light come from? From the stable in Bethlehem, where the shepherds found "Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger" (Lk 2:16). Before this Holy Family, another and deeper question arises: how can the small and weak child have brought such radical novelty to the world to change the course of history? Is there not something mysterious in its origin that goes beyond that stable? (Pope Benedict Angelus Address Jan 1st, 2012)

In this Christmas season, we rejoice in the light, which surrounds Christ’s birth, bringing a hope which transforms our life in this world. Each year our celebration leads us to reflect anew on Jesus’ identity as the only-begotten Son of God, who became man for our salvation. Jesus is truly Emmanuel: "God among us", born of the Virgin Mary. When we profess the mystery of the incarnation in the Creed, we bow our heads in awe and adoration.

(At Christmas,) we acknowledge (anew) that the incarnation is the work of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, brought about through Mary’s free cooperation. The incarnation is the beginning of the new creation. Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is the new Adam who offers humanity rebirth in the waters of Baptism, by which we become sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. (We pray ever more intensely that) during this holy season, we may welcome the Saviour into our hearts, allow God’s power to strengthen and transform our weakness, and bear joyful witness to the dawning of the new creation. (Pope Benedict Angelus Address Jan 1st, 2012)

Today on the feast of Epiphany we ask, who were the wiseman that came to the light and professed in faith that the Christ Child was not only the King of all kings, but God Himself? Were they Astonomers, philosophers, magicians…maybe they were all of these? But whatever else they were, the three wise man were “people of inner unrest, people of hope, people on the lookout for the true star of salvation. They were not just astronomers or philosophers they were wise in the truest sense of the word, they recognized their inner restlessness for something greater than this world and with courage set out to find It, or better yet, Him.”

In a way the Wise men represent all men; and they represent the inner dynamic, the inner desire-restlessness, which can never be fully quenched, of all men toward that which surpasses man; it is a inner search from the heart of man for the true God, not just to know about Him or even to know Him personally but to possess Him and be possessed by Him in love. The wise men represent all of those who would, in every age, come after them and who would be seekers of the truth. This is why the wise men and all “wise” men after them follow the star.

But what was the star of Bethlehem? Was it an astronomical event or was it a supernatural event? There have been many arguments on how the star shown its light to the wise man. What ever the star was physically, the point is, is that “it is not the star that determines the child’s destiny in the manger, it is the child that directs the star.

In other words, Jesus is himself the Star that shines upon the world and determines it’s fate. And so, it also is not the star (or stars) that determine our own destiny, it is the Child that directs our destiny. Human nature now assumed by God—as revealed in God’s only begotten Son—the Christ child in the manger—is greater than all the powers of this material world, greater than the entire universe.

This truth about the Christ Child while a source of hope for us; is also, many times a source of hopeful unrest for us. The wisemen went to Herod to inquire after the newborn “king of the Jews.” We are told Herod was troubled by their questions, and all of Jerusalem was troubled with them.

The birth of the messiah would evitable bring more questioning and eventually bring trial and tribulation to the people of Jerusalem and to the whole world. Who is this Christ Child that was born into our world and causes a disturbance to the supposed peace of this world? The truth is that He is God, the God “who disturbs our comfortable day-to-day existence. Our faith in Him and in His only Begotten Son, is the star of hope-yes; but it can be also a star of disturbance to our daily life, but only to lead us to greater love of Jesus and union with God. This is why Jesus’ kingship goes hand and hand with His Passion (cf. Benedict “The Infancy Narratives, Jesus of Nazareth).

And so the Star even today directs us to the One who gives us hope but does so by disturbing the comfortableness of our daily mediocrity and selfish love; it directs us to the paradox of the cross, the cross which calls us to a daily self-denial and a daily dying to self in order to live for the sake of the other, for love of the other. The other being first, God Himself in Christ Jesus, but then through Him to love our neighbor as Christ loves us.

The Star shines brightly even in our day pointing to our hope—that is, to Jesus and the power of His divinity which helps us to overcome our lack of love and the poverty of our fallen human nature. It reminds us that, “Sometimes, even in the journey and life of faith we can feel our poverty, feel our inadequacy in the face of the witness to offer the world.”

But, the star also reminds us that, God chose a humble woman, in an unknown village, in one of the most distant provinces of the great Roman Empire. Always, even in the midst of the most difficult problems to face, we must trust in God, renewing faith in His presence and action in our history, like in that of Mary. Nothing is impossible with God! With him, our lives always walk on solid ground and are open to a future of firm hope. (Pope Benedict Angelus Address Jan 1st, 2012)

Like the wise men we for our part must come in faith on bended knee and with bended heart and bow down in adoration before the God-Child truly present in the Holy Eucharist; adoring the One who is our holy Hope and placing our complete trust in Him. We must like the wise men bring our gifts and place them before the newborn King.

Just like the wisemen we too are to bring our gifts of gold, incense, and Myrrh. In this case, our gold is the treasures of our heart to be offered to Jesus made present to us in the Eucharist. The Incense we are to offer is the sweet fragrance of our good works, of our little acts of love done each day for the Love of God, our witness to others of our love for God. And what of the Myrrh? The myrrh is the very sacrifice of ourselves, our hearts, all that we have and are, offered to the Heavenly Father as an oblation of love in union with the sacrifice of His only Son made truly present before us.

We like the wisemen also need to turn to the Star of the East, Mary and ask her to help us in our fears and weakness so that in hope and complete trust we may lead others to Jesus in the Eucharist. His True Presence is the antidote for all our anxieties and fears, including pain and death. He is the Bread of Angels that removes our pains, our cares, our worries; He alone brings joy and peace to our soul, he alone satisfies our whole being and gives us true hope. Let us ask Holy Mary who leads us to the Star that is Christ to help us become as stars as well so that our light may lead other men to light of God and His love for them!

Holy Mary, stella Maris, stella orientis—Holy Mary, star of the sea, star of the east pray for us, lead us, and others through us, safely to Jesus. Amen.