FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY – December 29, 2013
First Reading (Sir 3: 2-6, 12-14)
The first reading deals with how the children should behave towards their parents, and their duties and obligations can be simply summarized as “honor them”. Children should be upright and honest so that their parents feel honored when they hear their names mentioned. Children should help their parents financially when they are in need. God promises numerous blessings on those who take care of their fathers and mothers: Those who look after their parents will enjoy a long life and be happy with children of their own; their sins will be forgiven (2, 5-14).
You may have noticed how the reading stresses the obligations of children towards their parents. We could get the impression that parents may behave as they like and children are obliged to help them. Should a man who is continually drunk and who shows disrespect for his wife, squanders his money, picks fight with everybody expect obedience and respect from his children?
Such things happen even in Christian families. We must however remember that we cannot set conditions for loving others. We do not love people because they are good; we may make them good by loving them. If this is true for everybody, it is much more so in the case of parents. Loving our parents does not mean letting them do what they like; we must instead try to understand them and help them to be happy. Children do misbehave, yet their parents do not abandon them, but hope for improvement.
Second Reading (Col 3: 12-21)
Paul tells us that we Christians must on beautiful clothes, made up of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness (12-13). But this is not all.
Over all these clothes we must put on the coat that keeps them together, love. Love is not just a vague feeling of compassion. It is a constant attitude of service towards others and a readiness to suffer for them. All Christians are expected to wear these clothes. They have to be worn day and night, and must never be taken off…
In the second part of the reading (18-21), Paul applies the law of love to the relationship between the various members of the Christian family. He tells women to submit to their husbands and then tells the husbands to love their wives. Generally women show little liking for these words of Paul. Why does he not tell husbands, “Submit to your wives?” Paul does not apply the term “serve,” to husbands he uses another one that is just as good and means exactly the same thing, “love”. The one who serves loves.
Can a couple consider itself truly Christian just because they were baptized and were married in Church? Can a husband be truly Christian when he is interested only in his own welfare? When he never consults his wife, or talks to her only to give her orders, when he does nothing around the house? Is it only the wife who must care for the children and look after the house? Can a couple consider themselves Christians if they hold nothing in common? Is our behavior towards our spouses compatible with the law of love?
Gospel (Mt 2: 13-15. 19-23)
The people of Israel were waiting for a Messiah who would repeat the glorious deeds of the great leader, Moses. This expectation was founded on what the liberator had said before he died: “Yahweh, your God will raise up a prophet like myself, from among yourselves, from your own brothers” (Deut 18: 15). Matthew in his Gospel wants us to understand that Jesus is this new prophet. Using the teaching method of his time, he does not say so explicitly but explains to us how the life of Jesus was similar to Moses’.
Pharaoh gave the order that all male children of the Jews should be thrown into the river (Ex.1: 15-22). Herod ordered the killing of all the children in Bethlehem. Moses was the only one who escaped the massacre (Ex 2: 1-10) and the same thing happened to Jesus. Later on Moses had to flee to avoid being killed (Ex 2:15). Jesus was forced to do the same. Finally when those who wanted to kill him had died, Moses was told, “Go, return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” Moses then took his wife and his son, and putting them on a donkey started back for the land of Egypt (Ex 4: 19-20). These are the same words we find in today’s gospel (20)
It is clear that Matthew wanted to show Jesus as the new Moses. I have insisted on this point because this year we shall be commenting on Matthew’s Gospel and we will often come across this parallel between Moses and Jesus.
Today’s gospel is also linked to the quotation fro Hosea’s prophecy: “I called my son out of Egypt” (15). The prophet probably means the people of Israel who in the Bible are called “my first-born son” (Ex 4: 22). The Israelites were called out of Egypt to the promised land. By applying this saying to Jesus, Matthew tells us that Jesus identifies himself with the people he wants to save.