Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.
Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion.
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
Brothers and sisters:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (NRSVCE)
As we regard the Feast of the Holy Family at Christmas, we look at the Nativity scene of Jesus: a father, mother and child. It is a simple scene that many of us took for granted when we never could have imagined the devastation we see toward the family and the profound lack of respect for parents, clergy, teachers, police, and other authority figures.
Enemies of the family and attacks on family are more numerous than yesterday’s problems of just divorce and abortion. Today people insist that people can be any gender they choose, that marriage can be between those of the same sex and children can be killed in the womb or formed in a lab. It is a gift to take time to think about the holiness of the family. What are we called to do?
We begin with hearing about the honor a father is due. We are told that fathers have the great responsibility of representing God who provides and protects the family. He is commanded to love his wife, and encourage his children and care for their hearts. Wives are meant to support their husbands. Children are to respect their parents and obey them. We are asked to preserve the special bond of love in the family; it is the model of Christian love.
In a family, there are conflicts but complaints must not turn to bitterness but aim for understanding and forgiveness. We need the help that comes from the Holy Spirit to be patient and compassionate and kind. We need to live together in peace and appreciate each other.
In the precious gift of family, we make choices every day to love or not to love. If the family is doing their part, we can endure the pains and hardships that come our way with the bonds of love in our family and through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
If you are blessed to have a loving family, thank God for them and the rich blessing they are to you. If not, pray that you will find the extended gift of a loving family in your Christian community and pray with them for the healing and conversion your family needs to find peace and love.