Pope Paul VI shared his personal experiences during one of his Parish visitations as the Archbishop of Milan, Italy. During the visitation, he found an older woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterward, Pope Paul IV was haunted by the phrase, ‘I’m dying of loneliness. He concluded by saying: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more, people need people, and there is no substitute for real people. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched and reassured that they are not forgotten. “A society or a community or a family that does not value, respect, and care for its elderly members doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, and it has lost its memory.”
“…people need people, and there is no substitute for real people.”
The last Sunday of the calendar year 2021, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. Today’s feast reminds us that Jesus chose to live in an ordinary human family to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church. Every family is the smallest unit of the Church, and it is part of our bigger society’s culture, tradition, and civilization. If our families are good and right, certainly everything else will follow, and if they are not, everything else will fail and fall. Good families are very important and crucial in sustaining a sane society.
The book of Sirach (3:2-6,12-14) speaks about the importance of mutual responsibilities in a family context, especially that of children towards their parents when they are aged. These responsibilities always come with a special blessing from God. The Responsorial Psalm (128) reminds us that happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord. St. Paul requests the Colossians (3:12-21) to let the peace of Christ rule their hearts and live in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience every day of their lives.
The Gospel according to Luke 2: 41-50 describes the fifth joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary, the disappearance of boy Jesus during the feast and then him being found in the Temple. Jewish boys were made “sons of the Law” by presenting themselves in the Temple of Jerusalem when they were twelve years old. The straight distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was 60 miles, although the winding roads through the hills during Jesus’ time made it 87 miles. On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, entire villages joined, breaking up into two groups; one of the men, the other of women. Children could go with either group. This is how Mary and Joseph could travel the entire first day’s journey back to Nazareth, assuming that boy Jesus was with the other group. When the families regrouped to camp for the night, they realized that Jesus was not with either of them. The troubled parents traced Him back in the Temple, being with elders and teaches learning and discussing matters of God and faith. Jesus returned with His parents to Nazareth and lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as Joseph and earning His living by the sweat of His brow. The infancy narratives of Mathew and Luke have pushed the moment of the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son manifested and revealed on the day of His baptism, “You are My beloved Son” (Mark 1:11). The Holy Family of Nazareth was a great model for all the families of our time.
Yes, dear friends, Holy Mother, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example, and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness and blessings to the family of Joseph and Mary. So also, Jesus brings holiness and grace to all the families provided we follow him in word and deed. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. We are also called as the family members to convert our family into a confessional rather than a courthouse where the members are ready to admit their faults and correct themselves to create a home for God and avoid the dangers of creating dysfunctional families for our society. Grace-filled families will create a graceful Church, society, and world. May God bless our families, and have a blessed weekend!
May God bless us all!
Fr. Tomy J. Puliyan, MSFS
“ Holiness and Happiness through Wellness and Wholeness!”