Holy Family, Year B
Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3
Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
December 31, 2017
Abraham had answered God’s call to follow his lead to a land that God had prepared for him. However, while Abraham was a man of some wealth, he felt lacking in one thing, he had no children to be his heir.
While Abraham expressed his concern in terms of who would receive his inheritance, I think his concern about an heir goes deeper than material inheritance. Material wealth can be nice but perhaps our real contribution to this world is not material but in how we strive to make God’s kingdom known in this world.
God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham and Sarah would have a son, Isaac. From him will come many biological descendants. Yet, when the Lord speaks of descendants, I think God speaks not just of biological descendants but all who follow in the faith of Abraham.
Descendants come in various ways. There are biological descendants. There are also those, some by choice and some because they are not able to have biological children of their own, who choose to adopt children.
Lest anyone think adoption is a lesser form of having descendants all we have to do is look at Joseph and Jesus. Jesus was not Joseph’s biological child yet it is through adoption into Joseph’s line that Jesus is heir to the throne of David. So, clearly in God’s eyes, adoption is as valid a form of being a family as biology.
Being a family is more than biology. Today we talk about blended families with step-children. Sometimes relationships with step-parents and step-children can be difficult relationships but I have also seen cases where the step-parents or children have as good a relationship as biologically related people.
Family is more than blood. It involves what we put into the relationship. Marriage involves sacrifice. Being a family involves sacrifice.
Relationships can be challenging. Being a family can be a challenge. In my own family, there is divorce, including my own parents.
Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They are an example of trusting in God and working through the challenges that come.
It might seem easy to think that everything was perfect for them but it wasn’t.
Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, not what one would desire.
Joseph and Mary were not a rich couple. We see evidence of their “poverty” as the gospel tells us that when they went to the Temple for purification, they offered a sacrifice of a “pair of turtledoves,” the sacrifice prescribed in the Book of Leviticus for poor families.
Joseph was instructed by an angel to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety because Herod sought to kill Jesus. So, the Holy Family was driven from what they called “home” to a strange land.
Jesus would suffer greatly in his passion and Mary, as his mother, would be there at the foot of the Cross, not an easy thing for a mother to see, but as his mother, Mary was there for her son.
Mary endured suffering to be there for her son. We need to ask ourselves are we willing to make sacrifices for those who are dear to us.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph serve for us as an example of what it means to be a family. Family is more than biological relationships. It is more than adoption.
I want to go back to God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Over three millennia have passed since then. Many biological generations have come and gone so Abraham would indeed have countless descendants but not just in terms of biology. All who believe in the God of Abraham and live lives of faith are spiritual descendants of Abraham.
What about spiritual children for us? I am celibate priest. I do not have and never will have any biological or adopted children. What I do have is a whole lot of spiritual children, meaning you, that I try to lead to our true Father in Heaven through our spiritual brother, Jesus.
Here I want to point to one other type of spiritual relationship, godparents and godchildren. I think many people today see being a godparent as a purely honorary thing today. That is not what the Church intends.
Godparents are meant to help the parents raise the children in the ways of Jesus. This means encouraging the family to come to church. It means encouraging them to receive the sacraments. It means encouraging them to bring the children for faith formation.
This is why a godparent needs to be someone who comes to church themselves. Even when a person is baptized as an adult, the godparent is to encourage them to actively live their faith.
All this requires sacrifice. Sometimes being Catholic means missing a sporting event or practice, a concert, or some school activity. What are you willing to sacrifice to live as a child of God?