FR. TONY'S JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) Shrewd girl: One day, a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a while, and said, “Momma, how come that grandma’s head is full of white hair?”

2) Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation! (Robert Orben).

3) Sue your parents! In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.

4) Long Training: A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest.  She would like to know what this would require.  So, the priest begins to explain:  “If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he’ll have to study for eight years.  If he wants to become a Franciscan, he’ll have to study for ten years.  If he wants to become a Jesuit, he’ll have to study for fourteen years.”  [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.]  The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. “Sign him up for that last one, Father — he’s a little slow!”

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Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily

Holy Family (B)

Fr. Tony’s Homily (everything on one page)

Introduction

On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing.

Starter Anecdote(s)

Select one or two of the following illustrations to insert here. View more by clicking on the “ILLUSTRATIONS” tab above. Feel free to insert more throughout the homily if so desired (but this should not be overdone).
Illustration A — Grandparents are a treasure

Grandparents are a treasure

Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would drop food on the dining table, drop and break bowls, and smear food all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table, a wooden bowl and spoon and set it off to the side of the dining room so the grandfather could eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad. When you get old like Grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” (In the American version of the story, the boy was making a wooden bowl). After that day, the grandfather was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 84rd birthday on December 17, 2020. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/).

(Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/
Illustration B — Dying of Loneliness

Dying of loneliness

In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Illustration C — The Power of Community

The Power of Community

A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise, and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Scripture Lessons Summarized

Fr. Tony’s unabridged edition for this section can be found by clicking on the “COMMENTARY” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading (Gen 15:1-6, 21: 1-3) Today we hear God’s promise (Chapter 15), of numerous descendants to Abraham whom Judaism, Christianity, Islam consider their father, and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to Isaac.

In the second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author further shows us the trusting faith of Abraham in the promises of God, first, in Abraham’s willingness to move his whole family to an unknown place to which God said He would lead him; second, in the way Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s power to give them a son born to them in their very old age and third, in the way Abraham’s unwavering Faith in his God enabled him to obey, without hesitation, his God’s order to sacrifice his only son.

Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted here are also found on February 2nd, the Feast of Presentation of Jesus.

Life Message

Fr. Tony’s unabridged versions can be found by clicking on the “LIFE MESSAGES” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.

1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that Jesus might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.

2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”

3) Marriage is a sacrament of holiness. Each family is called to holiness. By the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage), Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the power of God by prayer.

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Reading Group (4:03) — “The Messiah is one of you” story from _The Road Less Traveled_ by Dr. Scott Peck

Fr. Tony’s Illustrations

Holy Family (B)

More of Fr. Tony’s illustrations

“The Messiah is one of you”

The following fable offers a powerful example of the contagious grace of change. The membership of a once numerous order of monks had dwindled over the years, until there were only five brothers left in what had been a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of the learning and spiritual renewal they found there. Now, no one ever visited as the spirit of the place and its inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.

One day, however, a rabbi happened by to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how they could revitalize themselves and make their monastery a spiritual center once again.

After a few moments, the rabbi replied, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

Flabbergasted, the brothers replied, “The Messiah among us? Impossible!”

As the weeks passed, the brothers puzzled over the rabbi’s startling revelation. If the Messiah were here, who would it be? Maybe, Brother Timothy . . . he’s the abbot and in his capacity as leader, he could surely be chosen to be the Messiah. It couldn’t be Bro. Mark; He’s always so argumentative, but, he’s usually right . . . Or maybe, it’s Bro. Pius who tends the garden and the animals. He could probably nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah. Surely, it could be Bro. Dominic; he’s studious, learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers. It couldn’t be Peter, could it? Certainly, the Messiah couldn’t be the one who cleaned toilets, dirty laundry and scrubbed the pots and pans each day. Or, could it?

Since the monks were unable to determine which one of them was the Messiah, they began to treat one another as though each were the one. Moreover, just in case he himself might be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity.

Within a few weeks, the monastery’s occasional visitors were awed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirituality they experienced. They returned again and again and brought new friends along. Soon, a few young men asked to be admitted to the order and the monastery thrived again.

Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words, “the Messiah is one of you.” How much more might spouses love and cherish one another . . . how much more might parents value their children, protect them, teach them, and lovingly attend to their needs . . . how much more might children honor and appreciate their parents. If each member of every family were to reverence all the others as the Messiah, i.e., as Jesus who is our Savior and brother, how much might that strengthen and secure those familial bonds that are the infrastructure, without which our society has no future. (Sanchez Files).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

“Am I not a family valuable?”

Rabbi Neil Kurshan in his book Raising Your Child to be a Mensch (a Yiddish word for a person having admirable characteristics such as fortitude and firmness of purpose), tells this real story: A young woman about to be married had come to the Rabbi for counseling. When she told the Rabbi that she hoped she would not make the same mistakes her parents had made, he pressed her to elaborate. The woman explained that each summer her wealthy parents traveled to Europe while she remained behind with a nanny. One year, when the girl was 11, the housekeeper suddenly quit just shortly before her parents’ annual trip to Europe. Upset that their vacation might be jeopardized, the parents quickly found a replacement. A few days before their departure, the girl noticed that her mother had wrapped the family jewels and silverware and placed them in the safe. Since this had never been done before, she asked why. Her mother explained that she could not trust the new housekeeper with the family valuables. Though certainly not intended, that insensitive remark so shocked and hurt the little girl that she never forgot it. Wasn’t she a family valuable? Didn’t she have more value than silver knives and silver forks? That is a question all of us could ask about our attitudes toward dependent family members, young, old or in-between, this Holy Family Day.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

The morning after

A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after. It is to normalize our lives in our families that we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family and invite its holy members to our families.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Top traits of successful families

According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are the top traits of successful families: *Communicating and listening *Affirming and supporting family members *Respecting one another *Developing a sense of trust *Sharing time and responsibility *Knowing right from wrong *Having rituals and traditions *Sharing a religious core *Respecting privacy. (Focus on the Family Bulletin, December 1988). Fr. Kayala.

Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds – Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Scatter my ashes in the local Wal-Mart

A single mother who raised her only child lavished her whole love on the girl, spending her health and wealth, time, and talents on the child’s upbringing. But the daughter dated and married a drug addict against her mother’s warnings and wishes. As a well-employed girl, she never cared to visit her mother. So on her deathbed the mother instructed her attorney to cremate her body and to scatter the ashes in the local Wal-Mart of the city where her daughter lived. He enquired why. The mother said: “Then I will be able to see my daughter visiting me every week!”

Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds – Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Fr. Tony’s Life Messages

Holy Family (B)

We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family

By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement.   They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2223) gives the following advice to the parents: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.  They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.  The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Marriage: a sacrament of holiness

The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of Holy Orders (priesthood), and the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage).  Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of Matrimony, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass.  Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual respect.   There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after they have grown up and left home.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom

.  A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins.  On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented in TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Let us extend the boundaries of our family

The homeless man or woman today in the streets of big cities, fighting the cold and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty, and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Both parents and children need to grant forgiveness and ask for forgiveness

If you had parents who were abusive, parents who mistreated you or manipulated you, you probably have a lot of hurt today when we talk about parents. God knows about that hurt; God cares about that hurt, and God understands why you hurt. As in all relationships, in the parent-child relationship too there needs to be love, repentance, and forgiveness on both sides. Both the parent and the child should be able to say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive me.” And, both the parent and the child should be able to say, “You are forgiven.”

On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “Children are a gift from God to you.” Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all your families in the New Year.

Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to imitate the Holy Family

1. We can hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. At least it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.

2. We need to cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope St. Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking. With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel. We need to do what it takes to bring silence home. We can move the TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of our household, and we can turn the set off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce family stress levels.

4. We need to make our home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes from a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’” Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many Catholics, who decry the lack of reverence in their Parish Church, then go home to desecrate their domestic churches — by harsh words toward their kids or their spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests! Remember: “They Will Know We Are Christians” — not just by the Nativity scene in our front yard, but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.

5. We need to make our home a place of prayer. Our day shouldn’t be dominated by devotions, but we should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done. There are many ways to pray as a family, and we should seek the ways that work best for our tribe. We can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. We could, at least, be saying grace at every meal. We can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. If we begin with something small and manageable, we can, in time, time to grow into it.

Fr. Tony’s Commentary

Holy Family (B)

Introduction

On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. This feast reminds us that we are part of a human family and at the same time we belong to God’s family, the Church. In both these families, we have privileges and responsibilities. In both, we work out our salvation together — as women, men, and children living and working in love and peace. Hence let us try our best to make life pleasant for other members in our family, and let us begin again today.

First Reading

The first reading(Gen 15:1-6, 21: 1-3):Today we hear God’s promise of numerous descendants to Abraham (chapter 15) whom Judaism, Christianity, Islam consider their father, and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife , Sarah, gave birth to Isaac. In the second reading, from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author further shows us the trusting Faith of Abraham in the promises of God, first, in Abraham’s willingness to move his whole family to an unknown place to which God said He would lead him; second, in the way Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s power to give them a son born to them in their very old age and third, in the way Abraham’s unwavering Faith in his God enabled him to obey, without hesitation, his God’s order to sacrifice his only son. Today’s Gospel [Year B: Lk 2:22-40] presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. These events are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus, a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22), to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna).

Second Reading

Rights and duties of parents and children: Although more emphasis is given in the first two readings [Year A: Sirach 3:2-6; Colossians 3:12-21] to the obligations of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old saying, and very often true. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God and their country, the children, in turn, will be more likely to carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman.

Biblical advice for parents and children: Many people honor their mothers on Mother’s Day and their fathers on the Father’s Day by taking them to expensive restaurants for dinner or by sending them valuable gifts. God has not commanded us to keep a day for our mothers or fathers but has rather given us a commandment to guide us in our relationship with our parents. It is the fourth commandment in the Catholic Catechism or the fifth commandment in the Hebrew Bible, given in the book of Exodus: “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex 20:12). St. Paul explains this commandment in his letter to the Ephesians: [1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), [3] that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. [4] And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord(Eph 6:1-4). “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord,” Paul says in Col 3:20 and in his letter to the Romans, he reminds us, “the authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1). Thus, we obey our parents not because they are the wisest and the fairest and the strongest and the paragons of all virtues, but because they are the parents God has given us, and the command to obey is His.

Gospel

Gospel [Year A: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23] exegesis: The old Moses and the new Moses. Matthew’s Gospel makes sixteen references to fulfilled prophecy (1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 24:15; 26:54, 56 and 27:9), more than twice the number in the other three Gospels combined. The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt is one of them. Presenting Jesus as another Moses, Matthew gives a number of parallels between the two. Today’s Gospel lesson includes several: i) The murder of baby boys by Herod parallels the murder of baby boys by Pharaoh (Ex 1:15-22). ii) Jesus’ flight to Egypt to escape Herod parallels Moses’ being hidden in the bulrushes to escape the Pharaoh who schemed to murder infant Jewish boys in order to lessen Jewish power and the danger of a Jewish takeover (Ex 1 – 2:10). It also parallels Moses’ flight to Midian to escape prosecution for murdering an Egyptian who was abusing a Jew (Ex 2:11-22). iii) Jesus’ return to Israel parallels Moses’ elevation to Pharaoh’s palace as an infant (2:1-10) and his return from exile after the death of the king of Egypt (Ex 3-4). iv) The angel’s assurance“…for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead” (Mt 2:20) parallels, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead” (Ex 4:19). But unlike His response in the Exodus account, God does not kill Herod or his soldiers. Instead, Herod kills the infants and other men will, in a few years, kill Jesus. In the Old Testament, God led by power whereas in the New Testament, God leads by vulnerability.

The O.T Joseph and the N.T. Joseph. The flight into Egypt also echoes the story of the earlier Joseph, whose going into Egypt laid the foundation for the birth of the Israelite nation and the Exodus (Gn 37-50). That first Joseph was a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. God also appears to this new Joseph in dreams (1:20; 2:13, 19, 22). The places cited in this lesson are equally important. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. His journey to Egypt is like that of Jacob’s family, who went to Egypt to escape famine. Jesus is driven to Egypt by a famine of justice. It was not unusual for Israelites to seek refuge in Egypt when life became difficult elsewhere, and Egypt had a substantial Jewish population. Joseph and his family would not have had to live in isolation. The events of this lesson show how Jesus happened to grow up in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem. In Galilee, he would grow up rubbing shoulders with Gentiles, which is appropriate to a Gospel that concludes with a mission to “all nations” (Mt 28:19). Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. The angel, who had been silent for some period of time, put God’s plan back in motion. As noted above, the angel’s words echo God’s call to Moses (Ex 4:19). Joseph obeyed without complaint or comment.

Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, is presented as a man of unwavering obedience, eager to consult God in fervent prayer and to learn His will through “dreams”. Joseph obeys without complaint, and his prompt obedience is crucial to God’s plan. He knows nothing except the next step of the journey, but he takes that step. So also is our obedience crucial to God’s plan. We cannot see the fullness of God’s plan for our lives or our families any better than Joseph could see it for his life, but we can be assured that our faithfulness will also lead, one step at a time, to great things.

The Massacre and Rachel’s tears. There is no record of Herod’s massacre of children other than the account by Matthew, but the story is fully in keeping with Herod’s murderous ways. He killed anyone he thought to be a rival, including his mother-in-law and three of his sons. There is no reason to believe that this massacre of babies did not occur. Bethlehem was not a large city, so the male infants under two years of age would have been few. In a tyrannical time and place, the incident could escape notice except by those directly affected. Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15, which portrayed the grief of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, at the fate of her people as they were later led into captivity to Babylon. Rachel was dead, of course, and was reputed to be buried at Ramah or perhaps in Bethlehem, both on the route to Babylon.

Influence of the Holy Family on Jesus: We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations. We know that Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. Both Mary and Joseph were accustomed to receiving the guidance of Heaven’s messengers. From Jesus’ adulthood, we can also glimpse the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews (Mk 12:29-30). He prayed spontaneously. He took time to pray alone. Yet, He also prayed with His friends. Jesus fasted and marked the holy days. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth. We know that work was important to Jesus’ family. In adulthood, Jesus was called not just “Joseph’s son,” but “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was skilled in a trade that was highly regarded in his day, and he trained Jesus in the same craft. We can conclude from Jesus’ preaching that Mary was industrious and frugal in keeping a house. It was likely from her example that Jesus drew many of His favorite stories: a woman finding just the right cloth to patch a piece of clothing, a woman working leaven into the flour, making dough for the next morning’s baking, a widow searching her house for a lost coin. Hard work, struggling to pay the bills, taking long road trips, praying simple devotions — all of this we learn from the real Gospels. (mikeaquilina.com).

Permission granted for the use of the materials on this page for education and homiletical purposes at no charge. If used in writing, please make acknowledgment of the author, Fr. Anthony Kadavil.. For more information, contact Fr. Tony by clicking here.