Dear parishioners and friends,
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family is the name given to the earthly family of Jesus: the Christ Child himself, his mother Mary, and his foster-father Joseph. We know very little about the life of the Holy Family through the Scriptures, which only speak of the early years of the Holy Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, and the finding of Jesus in the temple. However, that limited information about the Holy Family can still teach us many important things about our faith and how we are to live our faith in the context of our individual family, human and spiritual.
Thus, today’s Feast is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is why each Christian family is called the “domestic Church.” St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a “family church,” and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. As the breakdown of the family unit becomes more prevalent today, this seems to be more urgent than ever.
Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ and his Church the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include reading the Word of God regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the virtues of the Holy Family, and so forth, all done together as a family unit.
In addition to cultivating positive actions, the Church understands that various actions and behaviors are contrary to God’s divine plan for the family, and these should be avoided. These include abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, polygamy, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, and cohabitation. Our Catholic faith teaches that a marriage must be open to children. anything artificial that prevents this is therefore contrary to divine law. Also, poverty, lack of health care, and other social justice concerns must be addressed by faithful Christians because of the negative effect these conditions have on the family unit.
The Holy Family Feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. Let us take this opportunity to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit, and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do in our particular family circumstance? How are we promoting a culture that supports the family within our own parish, neighborhood, and community?
As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we are, in a real sense, members of the Holy Family. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians tells us how to live amidst the bonds of family. He encourages us to put on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” in dealing with one another. By living in this way, we will strengthen our individual families and, ultimately, our common spiritual family that is the Church.
I am often inspired by the families of our parish that come together for worship and other communal activities. Whenever a Family Mass is held, the church is always packed with people, young and old, adults and children, youths and young adults. The visual image of such a celebration is quite powerful as it shows our parish family at its best. For that reason, I always appreciate deeply the programs and ministries that bring families together, such as our Religious Education Program, the Children’s Choir, the Mariachi Youth Band, the Youth Mass, the Vocation Groups, as well as the Baptism and Marriage Preparation Programs. It is very encouraging to know that while many other places have had to curtail most of these opportunities due to the pandemic, our parish remains a clear exception in that they are all thriving with extraordinary vitality and growth. I am grateful for the willingness and generosity of our parish leaders who work very hard to make our parish family more united and stronger each day, despite many ongoing hardships and challenges in these areas.
As we come to the end of this year, let us place our parish family before the Infant Lord, knowing that he, who “came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly”, will continue to bless us with greater holiness, love and strength in our effort to model our lives after that of his Holy Family.
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham