Sir 3:2-7, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40
Today we celebrate the feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Church invites us to look toward the holy family and to consider it as true model of family life. Fathers must try to emulate Joseph – God-fearing, just, responsible, protective, hardworking, and provider. Wives must be like Mary – prayerful, brave listener, actively involved, caring and motherly. Children must imitate Jesus – obedient, respectful, and filled with wisdom and grace. In the holy family, there is mutual respect and care for one another, something that every Christian family must try to emulate.
The readings remind us of the essentials of healthy family life. The Book of Sirach presents the ideal attitude that children must have toward their parents. The author tells us that life would be meaningful when children honor and respect their parents (3:2-7). Modern studies of the family and our own experiences would confirm this important insight of the Bible. When parents and elders are revered, there is peace and harmony in the family.
Parents have the important task of keeping their dignity and respectability in the eyes of their children. In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul admonishes husbands and wives to love and respect one another (3:18-19). They need to provide good examples because they are their children’s first evangelizers of the gospel. It would be very difficult for a child to maintain honor and respect to parents who live immorally – such as adulterers, verbal abusers, alcoholics and drug addicts.
The gospel illustrates an important obligation that parents have towards their children. Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord . . . and they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord (Lk 2:22-24). Children are gifts from above and parents have the task of bringing and dedicating them back to God. Parents are encouraged to plant the seed of the faith in the hearts of their children and to nurture it patiently. The time and effort that they spend for this endeavor can be the parents’ most valuable sacrificial offering to God.
St. Paul enumerates the virtues that come to life and are nurtured in the context of a loving family (Col 3:12). It is in the family that children first experience compassion and kindness and then bestow it on others. It is in the family that humility and meekness shape their gentle spirits, so that the same tenderness will be extended to others. It is in the family that they learn to bear with one another and to forgive one another.
Parents need to reflect on this poem written by Denis Waitley.
Children learn what they live, children live what they learn
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence
If children live with security, they learn to have faith
If children live with fear, they grow up standing at the end of every line
If children live with praise, they learn to stand alone and lead their parade, even if it’s raining
If children are spoiled with indulgence and permissiveness, they grow up full of compromise and greed
If children are given challenges and responsibilities, they grow up with values and goals
If children live with depression, they’ll need a drink, a puff, a sniff, a shot, a pill to get them high
If children live with optimism, they’ll grow up thinking they were born to fly
If children live with hate, they’ll grow up blind to beauty and true love
If children live with love, they’ll live to give their love away and become blind to hate
If children are reminded of all the bad in them we see, they’ll become exactly what we hoped they’d never be
But if we tell our children “We’re so proud to wear your name, they’ll learn to win, believing they’ll achieve their highest aim
Because children learn what they live, and children live what they learn.