“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16 )
Although the Feast of the Holy Family fell last Friday, I think that this season is a good time to reflect upon our family lives, and to examine whether we’re being good family members. When we contemplate the Holy Family, we note the fact that when Jesus became man – when the Word became flesh – He became flesh as a little child within a family. That was a divine choice; because Jesus could have chosen any way he wanted to manifest Himself. He could have arrived on earth as a 33 year old adult or an 80 year old man.
But Jesus was conceived and began his existence in Mary’s womb, and was born as a baby in a family. Mary became the Mother of God (as we celebrate on Sunday). It’s not hard to understand what Jesus was doing. He wanted to redeem all of human life, which meant redeeming the family first. The family is the cornerstone of society. As the importance of family disintegrates in the modern world with unmarried people living together and children born outside of wedlock, our society is weakened. Families need to center their lives around Christ, just as Mary and Joseph did. If our families are centered around the television, or sports, or work schedules, then we get lost. Mary and Joseph were poor, but it didn’t matter, because they were centered on Christ. The family centered on Christ will be a family that has placed its priorities in order. As Servant of God, Fr. Patrick Peyton and Blessed Mother Teresa never tired of saying. “The family that prays together stays together.” It’s not enough for the members of the family to pray individually, they have to pray as a family at every chance they get.
My earliest childhood experiences were of praying at night before I went to sleep, saying grace before each meal, kneeling down in the living room as my Mom and Dad led us in the Rosary, and of attending Mass together as a family. These were formative experiences that helped me to understand the “normalcy” of prayer and the importance of Jesus. And these experiences formed me in what Pope John Paul II called the “first seminary” – the domestic seminary of the family home.
The Octave of Christmas is a time when we naturally come together as a family to celebrate the holy days. Let it also be a time when we recommit ourselves to place Christ at the center of our families by praying together!
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty