The Christian Family
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - December 30, 2018 - 12:00am

The new neighbor was talking to a seven-year-old boy living next door. 

 

“How many kids are there in your family?” he asked.

“Eight,” the child said.

“My, that many children must cost a lot of money!” said the neighbor.

“Oh, we don’t buy them.  We raise them,” replied the boy.

By the very nature of creation, by divine design, no human being comes into the world as an isolated, unconnected person.  Everyone belongs to a family. 

We are shaped by our family relationships.  The family gives us our identity.  Aside from my family name, I’m identified as the son of Paul and Marcela Sim. 

Every now and then, people come to me and tell me, “I’m the classmate of your sister, Nenita.”  Or, “I know your brother, Ato.”

Our first reading from the Book of Sirach tells us that unless our present biochemical and genetic engineering experiments and cloning change this, every human being who will be born will be connected both by lineage and by concern to other human beings. 

There is a popular saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”  On the feast of the Holy Family, let’s take a closer look at this as we reflect on today’s reading.

We sometimes have an idealized notion that a family consists of a mother, father, and a few children.  In many of our family structures, especially oriental families, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are considered part of the family.  Sometimes we find the whole clan living in the same compound.

Today, close friends and neighbors often become the support system for overburdened parents.  The feast of the Holy Family is for all of us here today, because all of us are closely connected to families and to each other. 

Today’s readings offer insight into what this means for each of us at a time when there is a rapid decline in family values.  In the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, we read an instruction given to those in the early Church who were about to be baptized.  They were instructed on how to live as members of this new Christian community. “Clothe yourselves with… kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another… Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.” 

All Christians are called to this kind of behavior and this is especially important within family structures.                                                                                                                    

Sometimes we get caught up in our “rights” and lose sight of the duties and responsibilities we have in relationships. 

The Gospel calls us to a higher standard.  Joseph, as head of the family was obliged to go to Jerusalem.  Jesus and Mary were not required to go with him, but chose to do so as members of a family.  Together they made the difficult journey.

The story of Jesus being lost in the temple points to another example of behavior inspired by duty.  Jesus was truly human.  He had a human mother, Mary.  But Jesus was also truly God.  He had no father but God the Father.  So, He could rightly refer to the temple as “my Father’s house.”

By rights, we must imagine that the Son of God could have stayed in the temple impressing the elders.  Instead, he accepted his duty to obey his parents and returned to his hometown, when told to do so.

The sense of duty we are looking at is not or was not born out of negativity, but of gratitude and love.  To have healthy families, we must first look at ourselves as individuals within the family and ask: How are we living out the baptismal call to be Christians?

We then, as Christians look beyond our own selves.  We need to support the needs of families by supporting them in their joys and sorrows.  Families sometimes stagger under the responsibilities placed upon them in today’s society. 

There are very practical ways to help families function.  It takes very little effort to make a difference: sometimes, just by our being there when needed, sometimes by a word of appreciation or encouragement, sometimes by reaching out to people who are hurting, sometimes by showing interest in their undertaking and successes.  

Today’s feast is about the basic family unit, but it is also about the parish family, the local community, and the global family.  We are all called to live the inner attitudes expressed in today’s readings. 

Conscious of the duties of the Christian life, and being faithful to the Gospel, we are to create a world, where people are responsive to one another.  We are to respect the environment we live in. 

If each of us did this, our own family structures would be stronger; children would not be neglected, or abused, or abandoned.  Each of us would reap the benefits of Christian life lived to its fullest.

Our Gospel reading today reminds me of this story I received through my e-mail:

A salesman calls up a certain house, and a three-year-old boy answers the phone.  The salesman asks, “Can I talk to your mother?”

The boy whispers in a very low voice, “She’s busy.”

The salesman asks, “Can I talk to your daddy?”

The kid whispers again, in a very low voice,

“He’s busy too.”

 

The salesman then asks, “Is there anyone else there?”

The tot replies in the same quiet voice, “A policeman.”

The salesman inquires, “Can I talk to the policeman?”

The boy repeats again, in a low whisper, “He’s busy too.”

The salesman again questions him and asks,

“Is there anyone else there?”

The kid comes back in a whisper, “A fireman.”

 

The salesman then wants to know if he can talk

to the fireman.

And once again the tot whispers, “He’s busy too.”

By now the salesman is really wondering what is going on.

 He asks the boy, “What are they all doing?”

The little boy replies, still in a very low whisper…

“Looking for me.”   

CHRISTIAN FAMILY
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