Seek Jesus Out for Your Family

User's Guide to Sunday, Dec. 27


Sunday, Dec. 27, is the Feast of the Holy Family (Year C).


Mass Readings

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14, Psalm 128:1-5, Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2:41-52

Today’s readings remind us of the great power and necessity of the family. But they also remind us that the family is not enough to satisfy, fulfill and complete us.

The reminder about the importance of the family is crucially necessary in our world today: From St. John Paul II to Pope Francis, the Church at the highest levels has been asking us to pray for the preservation of the family as a crucially urgent task in our time.

But, ironically, we will never preserve the family unless we remember its ultimate inadequacy.

First, the importance of the family is rooted in the very nature of human beings.

The biological fact that every human being has a father and a mother is a reflection of the very will of God, says the first reading, from Sirach: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”

Every society, from China to the great Roman Empire, had strict laws governing family life.  

St. Paul’s second reading today shows how Christianity changed that.

For wives, he said, “Be subordinate,” that is, mutually submissive — but no longer the property or de facto slaves — “to your husbands, as is proper to the Lord.”

For husbands, “Love your wives and avoid any bitterness toward them” put a command for self-giving and gentleness in the heart of the man’s vocation, adding later, “Do not provoke your children.”

For children, Paul uses the word “obey,” a word he never uses for wives or husbands: “Obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.”

This family relationship is so important that, in the fullness of time, when God entered mankind at Christmas, he did so in a family, and that family became a model of proper Christian family behavior.

Think of it: The Holy Family was focused on Christ, with a mother who was abandoned to God’s will and a strong, supportive father.

But things go awry with the family when we fail to add an all-important qualifier: The family is not everything.

The Holy Family finds that out the hard way in today’s Gospel. They have done a great thing, pilgrimaging to Jerusalem with extended family. But on the way home, they discover every parent’s nightmare: They lost their son.

Their first instinct is to look for him “among their relatives and acquaintances,” but Jesus is not to be found there. To find him, they have to go to Jerusalem, and there he is, “in his Father’s house,” among the rabbis, “listening to them and asking them questions.”

The lesson is clear: The Family is not enough. Families are not, ultimately, resting places, but launching pads: They are the places that prepare children to find God’s will and for all to find their true home in heaven.

In order to bring Christ into our families, we have to seek him elsewhere. We have to come to church and to the sacraments; that is where he is. Sit in front of the tabernacle, and if you are attentive and openhearted, you will have an experience like the rabbis did, finding yourself “astounded at his understanding and his answers.”

We need to strengthen the family in America. But we can’t do that just by focusing on the family. We have to find Jesus in his Temple first — and welcome him back into our lives.