The Gift of Family
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, Sj (The Freeman) - December 31, 2017 - 12:00am

Today’s feast of the Holy Family shows God’s recognition of the value and importance of the family. We just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the God became man. We see that when God decided to become one of us, to share our life, he chose to come as a member of a family, the family of Mary and Joseph.

The Baby Jesus was as helpless as you and me, fed at his mother’s breast, cried when he was hungry or cold. He smiled to the touch of Mary and Joseph. He grew and learned from Joseph how to make a plow, and from Mary the love of God and how to pray.

By being born into a family, Jesus blessed all families – made the family sacred. That happened over 2,000 years ago.

Today God presents the Holy Family as a treasure. Jesus, Mary, Joseph were not only holy themselves – they help us to be holy. We can live our day-to-day life with their spirit.

Today, all around us, the opposite is happening. In our age of instant gratification, there is a constant effort to desecrate the family: pre-marital sex, extra-marital affairs are acceptable to many.

The sanctity of marriage and family is being torn by divorce; the sacredness of new life is being destroyed by abortion.

The following story a parishioner sent me illustrates the importance of the good Filipino family values. Once there was a feeble old woman, whose husband died and left her all alone. So she went to live with her son, his wife and their little daughter.

Every day the old woman’s sight dimmed, her hearing grew worse, and sometimes at dinner her hands trembled so badly the peas rolled off her spoon, or the soup ran from her cup. The son and his wife could not help but be annoyed at the way she spilled her meal all over the table.

And one day, after she knocked over a glass of milk, they told each other that enough is enough. They set up a small table for her in the corner next to the broom closet and made the old woman eat her meals there.

She sat all alone, looking with teary eyes across the room at the others. Sometimes they spoke to her while they ate, but usually it was to scold her for dropping a bowl or a fork.

One evening just before dinner, the little girl was busy playing on the floor with her building blocks, and her father asked her what she was making.

“I’m building a little table for you and mother,” she said with a grin, “so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big!”

Her parents sat staring at her for some time and then suddenly both began to cry. That night they led the old woman was back to her place at the big table. From then on she ate with the rest of the family, and her son and his wife never seemed to mind a bit, when she spilled something every now and then.

What does the story say to us? Think about it.

The life cycle: birth, adulthood, old age, sickness and death inevitably come to us all… Until we realize that old people are suffering and scared… Until the spectre of our own old age catches up with us, we may not have any idea what old people are going through.

Try understanding them and occasionally shower them with joy and kindness to break their suffering, loneliness, and numerous anxieties. After all, how many short months or days do they have left in this world to be with us?

While we are still blessed with their presence, let us take care of them and love them as much as they have loved us.

One remarkable cultural trait that is ingrained in us, Filipinos, wherever we may be, is our strong family ties. It is not unusual for Filipino children in their late 20’s to be living with parents, and for grandparents to be happily spending their twilight years with their children instead of a home for the aged.

This value is something that we should preserve. From crib to death, we are family. Let us teach our own children by example these socially redeeming values that are Filipino.

George was a seaman in his 70s. He had never married. Most of his life he travelled the oceans around the world. He had no home of his own. His nephew, Bill, always liked Uncle George. So, he invited Uncle George to live with him and his wife and five children. It was a mutually happy arrangement.

George now had a home; while Bill’s family could travel the world in imagination as they listened to Uncle George recount his experiences.

At times Bill became bored and discontented with family life. How nice it would be to roam the world carefree and footloose. He even expressed this wish to his wife and children.

One evening as Uncle George was telling of some faraway place, he mentioned a map of a buried treasure. The idea struck Bill’s mind so that when Uncle George died a few years later,  Bill went through the old man’s few belongings.

Sure enough, there was an envelope addressed to Bill. In it was a map. With shaking fingers and pounding heart he tried to figure out where the treasure was located. Finally, he pinpointed the spot. It was his own home, the very spot where he was right now. Uncle George had truly left him a treasure, the realization that his own home, his own family, was a treasure.

The Holy Family tried to do good to one another and to their neighbors. We admit that family life today is much more difficult than ever, but this spirit of helpfulness to one another is all the more necessary.

We know the world is a mess today. Our country is a mess – all the striving for material comfort and pleasure, all the sex and violence, the AIDS epidemic… We need not elaborate on them. The cure is not condom, or safe sex. The cure is not anti-bodies for AIDS. The root-cure is to strengthen the respect for the family, improve family life.

Strengthen the God-life in us. Put a new spirit into this basic unit of society. Where can we get the spirit? From the Holy Family.

One of the key concerns of every family is its prayer life. With guests at your Christmas dinner table, would you feel comfortable asking any of your children to say grace?

As we grow in our prayer life, the focus of our prayers will turn from petitions to openness to God’s will, from “Lord, grant me this, and grant me that” to “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Fr. Anthony de Mello tells of a story of a man who kept pestering God with all kinds of petitions every day. Finally God sent an angel to tell him, “You have been pestering God with a hundred thousand petitions each day. God has decided to grant you whatever petitions you ask, but only three petitions.”

Immediately the man said, “I want my wife to die, so that I can marry a younger, sexier wife.” Immediately, his wife died.

But during the wake, friends and neighbors praised the virtues of the dead wife, how loving and caring she was, how patient and hard working. It would be impossible to find a wife as good as she was.

The man was struck by remorse. He asked God to give him back his wife. Immediately his wife returns to life. By then he had already made two petitions. There was only one left.

So, this time he was very careful and started asking his friends for advice. Some of them advised, “Ask for wealth. If you are rich you can do anything.” Others objected, “What good is wealth, when you have poor health. You cannot enjoy it.”

And still others said, “What good is wealth and health, if you have no friends to enjoy with you. Ask for friends.”

By this time the man was totally confused. Exhausted from thinking and asking opinions, he said to the angel, “Tell me, what shall I ask?” The angel answered, “Ask for the grace to be happy with what you have.”

Today’s Feast of the Holy Family invites us to ask ourselves about the quality of our family life.In particular, it invites us to ask ourselves how well we – fathers, mothers, sons and daughters – are contributing to the life and wellbeing of our family, especially love and mutual support of the family.

Your home is a treasure. There you will find all the worthwhile things of life, the truly valuable things. To make your family sacred and to keep it sacred, we need inspiration. We need superhuman help.

Ask Jesus, Mary and Joseph to help all of us make our families pleasing to God and a center of Christian love and concern for our neighbors.

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