Holy Family depiction at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Dili, East Timor

Relationships within families

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

On this feast of the Holy Family, the readings speak to us about relationships within families.

Sirach stresses the Lord’s command to “honor thy father and mother.”

Paul focuses on the need for children to be obedient to parents, and the responsibilities of parents towards children.

Matthew highlights Joseph’s obedience to God’s commands pertaining to Jesus and his care for Jesus’ mother.

Song suggestions

Pause for a moment and listen to one of the following songs.

Opening prayer

Jesus, God and man, you were born into a human family to model for us the sanctity of family life. Teach us and empower us to love our families as you love them. Show us how to reverence and respect each other, especially the aged and vulnerable members of our family. Be with us now as we gather to break open your Word. Amen.



SIR 3:2-6, 12-14

Home care for the elderly

The fourth commandment

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

This reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ Too often, we think of this commandment solely in terms of the obligation of younger children to obey their parents. That is part of it. But there is another part to it, i.e., the obligation of grown children to ensure that their aged parents are able to live out their final years in comfort and dignity. It is this second element that is the focus of the reading. Sirach lists the rewards that come with such respectful conduct: atonement for one’s sins, gift of offspring, answer to prayers, and a long life.

My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;do not grieve him as long as he lives. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;do not revile him because you are in your prime. — Sirach 3:12-13 (NAB)



PS 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5

Miniature illustrating Psalm 128, Blessing on the Faithful, in The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry, Condé Museum. An old man seated on a throne, surrounded by his eight faithful.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

This psalm, which speaks about the fear of the Lord, makes reference to the blessing of a worthy wife who, in turn, is a blessing to the whole family.



COL 3:12-21

The Christian family

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

In Baptism, Christians clothe themselves in Christ. Paul urges his readers to clothe themselves with the virtues that befit a follower of Christ: forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, etc. He exhorts them to be grateful, to sing, and to do everything for the glory of God. In line with accepted traditional customs of the time, Paul counsels wives to be submissive to their husbands. This advice, without doubt, would be different if Paul were living today. He would most likely encourage spouses to be submissive to each other.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. — Col 3:12-13(NAB)

PDF HANDOUT: Four miscellaneous reflections on family

  • Reflection #1: Happy families are involved with helping others
  • Reflection #2: Good families all learn to deal with difficulties and challenges
  • Reflection #3: How can a sense of Jesus’ presence transform a family or community?
  • Reflection #4: God – A Divine Migrant



MT 2:13-15, 19-23

Latimore, Kelly. Refugees: Holy Family, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Holy Family as homeless refugees

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Commenting on this Gospel, Fr. Flor McCarthy SDB, writes: In the Gospel we see exemplified the primary obligation of parents, which is to love and care for their children. Here we see what Mary and Joseph did in order to ensure the safety of the Child Jesus. As soon as they learned that his life was in danger, they uprooted themselves and went into exile.

There is a tendency to see life for the holy family as all sweetness and light. This was far from being the case. Matthew casts the Holy Family as homeless refugees. As refugees, they shared the fate of the many uprooted and dispossessed families in our world today. But because of their deep faith in God, and love for one another, they stayed together and came through it.

When the danger passed, they uprooted themselves again and returned to their native country, settling in Nazareth. Nazareth became the place of family life, of prayer, work, and silent virtues, practiced with not witnesses other than God, and their friends and neighbors. Nazareth was the place where Jesus lived thirty years of his short life, and is where many people live their entire lives. There Mary and Joseph provided the kind of atmosphere in which he was able to grow ‘in wisdom and in favor with God and people.’

(Used with permission granted by Dominican Publications, New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies, by Flor McCarthy.)

When the magi had departed, behold,the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,and stay there until I tell you.Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by nigh and departed for Egypt. — Mt 2:13-14 (NAB)




Discussion Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

The following questions are designed for small faith sharing groups where time may be limited.

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention? Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. The first reading speaks glowingly of the rewards that come to those who care for their parents, especial-ly elderly parents. Living out this reading becomes a big challenge for those who have a poor relationship with their parents. Any suggestions for adult children in this situation?

3. In the second reading, Paul names several virtues that have the power to strengthen a marriage or a family. In your experience, what are the keys to a strong marriage and family (if single, a strong friend-ship)?

4. During their stay in Egypt, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were probably illegal aliens – not so much in legal implications as in their experience in a foreign land. How close have you been to the experience of people who have come to this country without legal status? What do you think that experience is like?

5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

More Discussion Questions (by Anne Osdieck)

Responding to the Word

Suggestions on ways to act:

1. If the distance between you and a family member is mainly your decision, pray about one thing you can do to diminish the distance.

2. Pray for undocumented families, especially those who live in fear of deportation.


Having listened to God’s Word and listened to others’ reflections on it, take a quiet moment to reflect on what you are hearing God say to you. Your response will be what you bring to Eucharist on Sunday, asking Jesus to help you respond as he asks of you. When ready, jot down your reflections.

Praying with the Word

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I lift up the members of my family to you. I especially pray for those who become disconnected from you.

Copyright © 2019. Joe Milner; For more intercessions go to the Sunday Web Site at Saint Louis University.

For the Church: that like Mary and Joseph, we may face the future with faith and trust in God, no matter what trials or uncertainties may stand before us…

For all children: that they may appreciate the gift of their parents and grow in wisdom and virtue each day…

For deeper awareness: that each member of a family may recognize their responsibilities to one another and fulfill them with compassion, kindness and patience…

For all immigrants and refugees: that God will guide and sustain them, help them to make new friends, and lead them to places of safety and new beginnings…

For peace amongst nations, ethnic groups, religions, and in our city streets: that God’s love made visible in the Christ Child may turn hearts from violence and open new paths of peace and justice


Closing prayer

Prayer for Family Unity: Lord Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, you lived in a family;Teach me to appreciate the gift of being part of a family.Show me ever new ways of protecting and comforting those closest to me;and, each day, let me do something that will say ‘I love you’ without speaking those words.Let me never part from any of my family in anger; prompt me always to turn back without delay to forgive and to be forgiven. Let me see your image in my family,in each of them, and in my larger family too,knowing that, in your kingdom, we will be truly one family,united by your sacrifice on the cross




This Sunday’s Themes

from Homiletic Directory

The Holy Family

CCC 531-534

The Christian family, a domestic Church

Duties of family members

CCC 2214-2233

The flight into Egypt

CCC 333, 530

NOTE: The above paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church resonate with this week’s biblical readings. They have been chosen because they cite or allude to the specific readings, or because they treat topics found in the readings.

Catechism Table of Contents

Catechism Index

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Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout.
Songs, photos of artwork, videos and scripture verses are curated by They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences.
Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
Intercession starters: Copyright © 2019. Joe Milner; visit The Sunday Web Site at Saint Louis University for a whole lot more.
Catechism links go to mobile friendly site at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Copyright permission for posting of the English translation of the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH on the web site was granted by Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica, case number 130389.
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