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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family – Service, Sacrifice, Sharing

               Some of this is borrowed from a homily I heard on the Feast of the Holy Family and some is my own reflections on the importance of family.  When looking at the word family take a minute and consider it, what comes to mind.  For some it is a wife, children, grandparents, an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and I could go on forever.  Yet how often do we think of the Church as family?  “The Church is nothing more than the family of God.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1655)  The believing Church in its entirety is our family, our refuge and our strength.  When our strength fails or frustration sets in over family issues, where should we turn…?  To God and to the Church which helps us foster familial bonds.  In Baptism, we become part of the family of Christ and that never goes away.  Baptism leaves the seal of being part of something greater, bigger and that is being a part of the family of God.
                The family is the foundation of society, as can be seen today, as the “traditional family” deteriorates due to relativistic ideas that have permeated our culture, society has started to unravel and chaos slowly takes over.  While we are not in danger of this happening completely there are warning signs that the family needs to be defended in this hostile world before it is too late.  Pope Benedict said it best, “The family, founded on marriage, is the ‘patrimony of humanity,’ a fundamental social institution; it is vital cell and pillar of society…the family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place.”  The Catechism states, “The family is the original cell of social life (society).  It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life.  Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society.  The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom.  Family life is an initiation into life in society.”  (CCC 2207)  “The family is irreplaceable for the personal serenity it provides for the upbringing of children.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)  The family is the primary societal foundation that allows for the growth of society but in the direction of solid faith and morals orientated towards God without which the family would cease to exist.
                The family is many things, first place of evangelization, where morality is taught, and where one learns how to love.  However, I would like to reflect on the three words in the title of this post, Service, Sacrifice, and Sharing.  I heard these three words used in a homily and they seemed to me to symbolize a great deal of what family is all about.
                Service, how much is encompassed in this one word.  How we serve others is important but how we serve our families, our parents, grandparents, our children are of exceptional importance.  Whatever stage of life you are in as you read this think how you serve those in your family?  Do you serve those in your family?  We are all called to life of service to others and most especially our families.  The book of Ephesians 6:1-4 tells us, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  While this could be seen as you must do what I say when I say it.  Upon further reflection, we see it says, “Obey your parents in the Lord.”  How did the Lord obey his parents, he served them.  Children serve your parents.  Ephesians 5:21-25 tells us, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior.  As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  What is called for here is service to each other out of love.  Serve and love each other, through sacrifice for each other.
                Sacrifice a simple word, can be defined, "to do zealously, to serve God, to offer sacrifice.”  Therefore, it is through sacrifice born out of love that we serve those in our families.  This sacrifice, self-giving or the giving of oneself is born out of love, the love to serve those in our families.  Then through this sacrifice, we share of ourselves with the ones we love.  We give up things that we desire for the betterment of the family and all family members young or old are called in their own small way to contribute to the betterment of their family.

                The best example we have for this is to turn to the Holy Family and examine how Mary served Joseph, Joseph served Mary and how Jesus as a child submitted himself to their authority.  The family is vital and must be protected and cultivated in this society that seemed to be so hostile to traditional family life.   

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry (Feast of the Incarnation of Our Lord) Christmas

There is a great song that I heard on YouTube a week or so ago called, “Where is the Line for Jesus.”  Please take a moment to listen to it. 

As I reflected on this song and the idea of where is the line for Jesus, all the children line up to see Santa Claus in the mall and yet do they line up to see baby Jesus in the manger.  The wonderful gift and birth of Jesus is sandwiched between the gift giving and the buying frenzy that ensues before and after Christmas.  Ultimately, when you think about it there is never a line to see Jesus.  He is always there for us, present at our local parish church, and always listening to us and speaking to us, waiting for us to listen.  Where is the line, we create a line to Jesus.  Our actions sometimes create a line that separates us from Christ.  All those things that we do year round and especially during advent, things that are put in front of going to Mass or praying daily or just listening to what God has to say to us at that moment in our day.  I am guilty of these things over and over and when I think about all the times, the moments when I am frustrated in a store or stuck in traffic trying to get to the store because I put off shopping to the last minute.  The crowd at the stores, the traffic on the roads, the last minute gift rush, in all this, we lose the silence, the simplicity of Christmas.  A simple yes by a simple girl, who was extraordinary without even knowing it, made possible the birth of our savior as vulnerable, humble, unassuming baby in a manger.  Our lives might be full of distractions and interruptions, all the background noise that clouds our lives and all God asks for is a few minutes of silence where we stop and listen to him.  In our human nature, we are great at talking and keeping busy and filling every single moment of our lives with everything except God.  As we search for words to explain this amazing mystery and gift, I believe nothing says it better than the words of St. John’s Gospel.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.  The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”  John 1:1-14

So this Christmas day take a moment, a moment of silence, listen to what God has to say to you today on this the day of the Birth of our Lord.  Christmas has become so complex and so I say something simple on such a wonderful day.  Simplify Christmas…Celebrate Christ.

The following song is “I Celebrate the Day” by Reliant K