Feast of the Holy Family: Reflect on the Biblical Vision of the Domestic Church

User’s Guide to Sunday, Dec. 31

Holy Family, pray for us!
Holy Family, pray for us! (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Dec. 31, is the feast of the the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Mass readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 or Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40 or Luke 2:22, 39-40.

Here in the middle of the Christmas Octave, the Church bids us to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family and to reflect on the biblical vision of family. Let us consider the family and marriage along three lines: structure, struggles and strategy.

Structure: All through the readings for today’s Mass we are instructed on the basic form, the basic structure of the family. In these passages we see the family includes a father in honor over his children and a wife and mother who is supportive of her husband. The husband clings to his wife, preserving union with her and the children. He also supports, loves and encourages his wife and confirms her authority over the children. Children are to honor and obey their parents as the parents instruct and admonish their children, not in a way that badgers or discourages them, but encourages them and builds them up. Indeed, the whole family structure is ordered to helping children advance in wisdom and age and in favor before God and man. 

Struggles: This picture is, sadly, rare. It is clear that the family is in crisis today, and it is also clear that it is children who suffer the most. The modern Western world displays a mentality that is both deeply flawed and gravely harmful to children. This includes sins such as cohabitation, fornication, abortion, adultery, homosexual acts, pornography, the sexualization of children and the sexual abuse of children. Add to this the widespread acceptance of contraception, which has facilitated the illusion of sex without consequences and promoted the lie that there is no necessary connection between children and sexual relations, of the necessity of marriage. The rebellion of many adults against the plan and order of God has caused endless grief and hardship and created a culture that is poisonous to the family, the dignity of the individual and the proper raising and blessing of children.

Strategy: What are we to do? Preach the word! Whatever the sins of this present generation (and there are many), we must be prepared to unambiguously repropose the wisdom of God’s word. We cannot hesitate to announce God’s plan for sexuality, marriage and family. Our strategic proclamation must include certain key elements. There must be no sex before marriage, ever, under any circumstances. There are no exceptions to this. Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and mother, committed to each other until death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God. We must return to a vision that marriage is about what is best for children, not adults. Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not resort to divorce, which offends God (Malachi 2:16). We must restore the understanding that the needs of children far outweigh the preferences, “rights” and needs of adults.

Whatever personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (Galatians 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage and family to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We must not allow any personal shame for our shortcomings to silence what God’s word teaches because God has a holy plan for marriage and family.

Holy Family, pray for us!