Sunday Sermon for December 27, 2020, Solemnity of the Holy Family, Year B
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40
In the first reading today Sirach tells us that God has set a father in honor over his children and that a mother’s authority over her sons is confirmed by God. I have been reading a book that addresses the proper ordering of relationships as presented for the Jewish family in the Old Testament. The point that is made very clear is the importance of the father in the religious upbringing of the children. Scripture is certainly clear about the role and authority of the mother, but God set things up so the father, as head of the family, was to be the leader in the practice of the Faith.
For the Jewish people, we recall that the mark of the covenant was literally incised into the flesh of each male. This was not a sleight to the women; rather, it was a reminder that each male, when he married, was to keep and pass on that covenant to the next generation. He was to lead the prayers, have his sons circumcised, and offer the sacrifices on behalf of his family. In essence, he was to be the priest to his family.
I mention all of this because the passage from the Prophet Malachi regarding the role of the Prophet Elijah in preparation for the Day of the Lord takes on greater significance when we understand this background. Elijah, we are told, will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. On one hand, this can be understood in terms of our Heavenly Father and turning us back where we belong. But on the natural level, it implies that there will be a breakdown of the family and the family relationships before the great and terrible day.
The way family life has been lived in our day looks very little like the way God intended it to be. The devil knows the importance of the family in the life of a child. He knows how important it is to have a mother and a father in the home. Therefore, in order to destroy the stability, security, and proper ordering in the minds of the young, the devil has put all his force into destroying the family. This has led to mass confusion among our young people. We see the attempts to redefine the family with a variety of relationships other than mother and father, who are also husband and wife.
The breakdown of the family has had tragic results for everyone. Men do not know what it means to be men because they often did not have a dad in the home. Women do not know what true male love is because they were deprived of it in their upbringing. Mothers are frequently left to try to be both mother and father. Men feel like they are unwanted or not needed. The rise of “supermoms” has left many men feeling emasculated. The trend of effeminate men and masculine women is not only contrary to God’s intention for us and for the family, but it is degrading and unnatural. How can children know who they are if their parents do not know who they are as men and women?
Sirach speaks of a mother’s authority over her sons. While we can all understand this, we also need to realize that a mother’s authority must be upheld by her husband. If her sons see that their father does not respect their mother’s authority, they will follow the example of their father. If a girl sees that her mother has no respect for the honor God has given to her father, she will follow the example of her mother. It is imperative, for the sake of marriage, spouses, and children, the Church and society, that we turn back to what God created. We need to turn back the hearts of fathers to their children and turn back the hearts of children to their fathers.
If the role of the father is upheld, the role of the mother will be upheld as well. Both need to build up each other. God has revealed the proper ordering of the family, but it has become politically incorrect and either ignored or rejected. In the second reading St. Paul says wives are to be subordinate to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives.
This is what we see in the Holy Family. Our Lady and St. Joseph give us the model of what a marital relationship should look like: a relationship marked by mutual love and respect. The proper ordering of the marriage will lead to a proper ordering of the family which, in turn, will lead to stable and secure children. Live your marriage as God intended and you will have a holy family!
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 www.thewandererpress.com.