December 29, 2019 – Feast of the Holy Family
The following is the homily I will be delivering at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:
It is ironic that this passage from Sirach was read today. Just a few days ago, when our kids all made it home for Christmas, I told them these very same things before they were allowed to open presents.
What we heard today is almost word for word what I told them:
- Whoever honors his father atones for sins
- Whoever reveres his father will live a long life
- Take care of your father when he is old
- Even if your father’s mind fail, be considerate of him
I encourage all fathers to offer these loving reminders to their children.
Next year I plan to put them in writing and have each child sign the document indicating they have read and understand these points.
My thanks to Sirach for the scriptural support.
When my wife was in her late thirties, she decided she wanted to be more physically fit. Carol started running. She started by running around the block and worked her way up to 3K and 5K runs. She enjoyed how running made her feel and eventually took on the Mini-Marathon. She was successful in that effort and felt encouraged to try a full marathon.
On her 40th birthday, she told me that she planned to run her first marathon later that year.
In October of that year, Carol ran the Chicago Marathon. She was so uplifted by the accomplishment and energized physically and mentally by it, that she wanted more. She shared with me that she intended to run one marathon each year until she turned fifty. With just one marathon under her belt, she had decided that she would run nine more.
I was skeptical, but supportive.
In that ten-year span, she ran a total of six marathons in Chicago, one in San Diego, one in South Bend, and two in Phoenix.
She ran her tenth and final marathon just one week prior to her fiftieth birthday. Mission accomplished.
Over the course of ten years, she had not allowed herself to be distracted. She overcame the challenges of dealing with physical aches and pains, found time to train, continued with work and family responsibilities, and ignored the opinions of those that doubted her.
She made a decision and took the necessary steps to make it happen. Carol was intentional; she did what she needed to do to accomplish her goal.
In his Christmas homily, Fr. Jim talked about God’s intentional gift to us – the gift of His only begotten Son. He said God was under no pressure or obligation, but rather, made a decision to send Jesus. God was deliberate; he was intentional. The only goal He had in mind was our eternal salvation.
That theme continues in today’s readings for the feast of the Holy Family. However, today we hear about the intentionality of Joseph and are encouraged by St. Paul to be intentional ourselves.
We often hear of Mary’s unwavering, “Yes” to God’s call to be the mother of Jesus. Her faith made it possible to fight off any doubt or apprehension and accept the role God intended for her. Mary was intentional.
Jesus was certainly intentional. There was no doubt as to what he wanted to accomplish or how he planned to go about it.
On the Feast of the Holy Family, the actions of Joseph complete the circle. He, too, is intentional.
As a matter of fact, it is the intentionality of each member of the Holy Family that makes them holy.
We saw Mary’s faith come alive with her “Yes” during Advent. Today we see Joseph’s faith come to life.
In Matthew’s gospel, we heard the angel say to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt…”
In the very next line, we heard, Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
Nothing fills the gap between the angel’s directive and the actions of Joseph. There was no, “Let me think about it” or “I’m not sure that’s the best idea.” There was only action. Joseph was decisive; he was intentional.
Later, while in Egypt, the angel appeared to Joseph again, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel.”
Once again, in the very next line of the gospel, we heard, He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
Once his decision was made, nothing distracted Joseph from the task at hand, from what needed to be done.
I like to think I would be that intentional in following the directives of an angel. I hope I am that focused and act that decisively in living my own faith.
In his Letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul emphasized the need to be intentional.
He did that by using definitive language to encourage the Colossians to live their faith. He wrote, “Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…put on love…be thankful…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” It was direct, decisive language that needed no further explanation.
Living our faith is a daily decision.
When we actively live our faith, we put on kindness and gentleness and love just like we put on the clothes we have chosen to wear. We choose to be thankful and we choose to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
When I preside at a marriage ceremony, I emphasize to the couple that love is a decision. Once married, they must wake up each morning and make the decision to love their spouse that day.
Living our faith is no different. We must wake up each morning and decide to be kind and grateful and focused on God’s will. It is an intentional decision.
In the 2012 book, Forming Intentional Disciples, author Sherry Weddell asks the question, “How can we transmit a living, personal faith to future generations?”
The answer, she says, is to know Jesus Christ, and follow him as disciples. These are times of immense challenge as well as immense opportunity for the Church. We must make a conscious choice, and an intentional effort, to know and follow Jesus before we can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of our faith.
God gave us an intentional gift on Christmas Day – the gift of His Son. Jesus continued to make this gift known, showing us in word and deed how to live lives that glorify God.
It is now our turn. We must honor God by accepting His gift and sharing it with others.
We do this when we block out distractions and keep our eye on the prize. We do this when we are open to God’s will for us, doing what needs to be done, even when the world is going in a different direction.
We do this by living our faith intentionally.
We do this by choosing to love.