Sunday Sermon for December 31, 2017, Holy Family, Year B

Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40

We celebrate today a feast that has become one of the most important in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The family has always been at the center of the Church and of society, but as Sister Lucia Santos, the visionary from Fatima told Cardinal Cafarra, the decisive battle will be over marriage and family, so this feast, and the proper understanding of the family, has taken on far greater importance.

At the foundation of the family is the marriage of a man and a woman. Never, since our Lord came into this world, has this been challenged. There have always been sins against God’s order of morality, but two men or two women (which is sin against nature) never claimed to be a family, much less married. At the same time, we certainly recognize circumstances which constitute heroic charity for those involved: widowed persons raising their children, single parent situations due to abandonment, adoption of children, etc. These kinds of situations constitute true families as well. However, I think it is reasonable to assume that in most of these situations, the persons involved would not have chosen things to be this way.

Since the decisive battle is over marriage and family, the mainstream media wants us to believe the family has been redefined to mean whatever an individual wants the family to be rather than what God created the family to be. For this reason they present a variety of aberrations hoping that if we see enough of these we will begin to think them to be normal. We have to recognize that what the media is presenting as normal is such a tiny minority of the whole, but since they control the message they can arrange things to look like something other than reality.

While we need to be careful to protect our own minds from accepting things that are wrong, we do not have to engage in the arguments. All that needs to be done is for families to live the way the are supposed to live. This begins with the mutual love and respect of a husband and wife, each recognizing the unique gifts God has given to both their own self and to their spouse. Each needs to build up the other in love, helping the other to embrace his or her rightful position within the family structure. Each needs to recognize the genius, as Pope Saint John Paul called it, of the other. In this way a couple learns to rely on one another and grow in unity through mutual self-giving, each serving the other and each receiving the gift of the other.

Thankfully, we have progressed beyond the days where women were presented as dingbats and airheads. However, we have now gone to the other extreme where men are now presented as worthless, lazy, idiots who do nothing but sit around watching TV and drinking beer while the superwoman takes care of everything. We have to reject these extreme kinds of stereotypes and understanding each relationship is unique. I can attest to the truth of the old saying that opposites attract. After working with hundreds of couples preparing for marriage, I have seen that people usually choose a spouse who complements them. Having opposite strengths and weaknesses not only provides a balance, but it brings about a kind of fullness of humanity when the two are united in marriage.

When the marital relationship is in good order, the rest of the family will be in good order. The children will see the love and respect their parents have for each other and they, in turn, will learn and practice that same respect for their parents and for one another. Within the family, as we read in the second reading, there should be compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and, above all, love.

Today we have many marriages where other things (groups, people, activities, etc.) get more time and attention than relationships within the family. These things may be good (and some of these things are necessary), but it is one of the devil’s most effective tricks: giving us many good things to keep us from the best thing. For those called to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the best thing is living your vocation to its fullest and becoming Saints.

Those called to family life can counter the attack waged by Satan and his minions by simply doing what Pope Saint John Paul called them to do when he said: “Family, become what you are.” This sounds strange, but everything is already there, now it needs to be embraced more fully and lived in a truly Christian manner. Love one another, respect one another, build one another up. Follow the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and become what you are called to be: Saints!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit