‘Sanctiﬁcation does not depend on our geography or on our work or circumstances. Some people imagine that if they were in another place, or married to a different spouse, or had a different job, or had more money, they could do God’s work so much better. The truth is that it makes no difference where they are; it all depends on whether what they are doing is God’s will and done for love of him’
Fulton J. Sheen Lift up your Heart
Christmas is a time for families, is a phrase with which I am sure we are all familiar. It comes as something of a shock to see that in a recent survey only 68% of British children live with both parents at the age of 14, with a quarter of children living in single-parent families. This is something about which we should be concerned for the simple reason that families matter, especially where the Church is concerned. It is not surprising that the Church sees the family as the domestic church, where parents and children should pray together and the Christian Faith should be taught – it should be a place where faith, hope, and love may abound.
In our broken and fallen world we recognise that our human efforts may fall short of all that is expected of us, and as Christians we are not to judge others, as ours is to be a community of love, and forgiveness, and mutual support. We must nonetheless strive to do all that we can to see that something ordained by God – the lifelong union of a man and a woman for the procreation and education of children – given for human ﬂourishing, is something that can be cherished, supported, strengthened and lived out, as a witness to the world, so that it may believe.
In this morning’s Gospel we see the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – the example for Christian families of what to be and how to live. Mary & Joseph show love and concern for their absent child, they search for him. Jesus’ response may seem troubling at ﬁrst; it doesn’t look like the response of a dutiful child. It does, however, point out the important truth that our ﬁrst duty as children is not towards our parents, but to God – to love him and serve him. But as Our Lord ‘went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them’ he shows that he is obedient both to God andhis parents – his obedience show us how to live a Christian life after his example. His mother ‘treasured up all these things in her heart’ as she comes to see and understand what is going on – the family grows in love towards God and each other and becomes a place of human ﬂourishing and an example to the world of how to live the life of faith. Mary and Joseph ﬁnd Jesus after three days – a period of time which looks forward to His Death and Resurrection – even here and now as a young man, his life points towards its goal: the Cross and the Empty Tomb which gives life to all creation in Him, through Him and with Him.
God gives us life in Christ so that we may live it and may ﬂourish, where we can truly be what God wants us to be, and so that strengthened by Word and Sacraments we may become what he is. In the First Letter of John we see our relationship with God in terms of a family – the Father loves us and we are His children, not just called such, but through the new birth of our baptism this is what we are. The world does not recognise this, just as it did not recognise our Lord, or indeed follow him. The world may just want to see us in worldly terms or have us conform to worldly values, but we cannot allow this to happen – we are called to conform the world to the will of God, to show it how it may truly ﬂourish and ﬁnd its true meaning and value. The world will no doubt hate us for doing this, but this should not dissuade us from trying, and indeed succeeding, as we are one in Christ, who has overcome the world.
So let us live lives of faith, hope, and love, after the example of the Holy Family, and aided by their prayers, so that the world might believe and all creation resound with the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the consubstantial and co-eternal Trinity, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.