Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Holy Family

HOLY FAMILY – Dec. 29, 2013        St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Toronto

The mystery of the family in God’s divine plan is at the heart of the wisdom expressed in today’s Liturgy.  We offer Mass today for our families and for all families that they may be strengthened by divine grace in this secular society.

The readings show us that our Lord has set parents as the guardians of their children with authority over them. We hear this in today’s First Reading and in the Psalm, which speaks of the blessings of the family flowing from Zion, the heavenly mother of the royal people of God (Isaiah 66:7,10-13; Galatians 4:26).

In the drama of today’s Gospel, the nucleus of the new people of God – the Holy Family – faces persecution by those who would destroy the child Jesus and His Kingdom. The forces of secular might were arrayed then, as they are today, to undermine the family and to enhance the power and authority of the state in it’s attempt to co-opt the individual by claiming to be the guardian of individual “rights” thus creating a false dichotomy at the heart of humanity. 

The individual only thrives in a community founded upon the nuclear family, supported by faith and protected by a civil order which is at the service of the family. An alliance of the state with the individual against the family pits the individual and his or her purported rights against the nuclear family and the Church.  This unholy alliance of individual and state leads to an idolatry which requires the sacrifice of the unborn, the breakdown of the family and the construction of false gods of individuality, narcissism and egoism.

Moses was called to save God’s first born, the people of Israel (Exodus 4:22; Sirach 36:11). Moses, like Jesus after him, was also threatened at birth by a mad and jealous tyrant (Exodus 1:15-16). In a divine parallel with Jesus, Moses was saved by his mother and family (see Exodus 2:1-10; 4:19) and went on to save his people from tyranny and the fleshpots of Egypt so that they might be transformed by divine grace into the Israel of God.

In God’s plan, the story of Moses is a foreshadowing or ante-type of Jesus who was also rescued by His family in order that he might ultimately bring salvation for all of humanity.

God took the family of Jacob down to Egypt, the symbol of oppression and slavery, in the process of making of them the great nation of Israel (Genesis 46:2-4).
In the Gospel we see God leading the Holy Family to Egypt in order to prepare them for the coming of the new Israel of God –  the universal
Church, the New Israel, which is for the salvation of all races and nations (Galatians 6:16).

In the story of creation, God established the family in the “marriage” of Adam and Eve, the two becoming one body (Genesis 2:22-24). Now in the new creation, Christ is made “one body” with His bride, the Church, as today’s Epistle illustrates (Ephesians 5:21-32). This union is the model
and norm of the Christian family, the coming together of man and women in lifelong union to nurture and govern the family, a union which gives the individual true dignity and which the state is designed to nurture and support.

In the union of Christ with his bride, the Church, we are made, by grace, God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Our families are given sacramental grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to radiate the love that binds us to Christ in the Church, to one another and to a redeemed humanity.

We approach the altar on this Holy Family Sunday to renew our commitment to our God-given duties as spouses, children and parents.  Mindful of the promises of today’s First Reading, we offer our quiet commitment to our duties within our families, in atonement for our sins and failings and in the hope that we may grow in grace individually and as families in the universal family of the Kingdom of Christ. 

We receive the blessed Body and Blood of Christ, the bridegroom, who gives his life for us and so builds us together into the universal family that is the new Israel, Christ’s Holy Catholic Church.

 Thanks be to God.

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