Holy Family Sunday

 I’d like to speak about the Holy Family and relate those comments to our families.

The Holy Family had two people who never sinned, Mary and Jesus, and a third member, Joseph, who never spoke up, as far as we know. Mary’s sinless son Jesus never disobeyed her, and never spoke back disrespectfully to her. The Holy Family’s home was quite different from our homes! Granted Mary and Jesus were morally perfect, but that does not mean that those two were perfect in everything they did. E.g, maybe Mary wasn’t such a good cook! I’ll bet that Jesus, in his apprenticeship as carpenter, bent his share of nails and broke some pegs. Maybe at home, Joseph left his socks and sandals lying around! In any case, the Holy Family was extraordinary because of its members, and very different from our families.

Granted the Holy Family must have appeared idyllic in many ways. Remember, though, we celebrate not only the Joyful Mysteries but also the Sorrowful mysteries. It is said of Mary in the Stations of the Cross, "No sorrow is like unto my sorrow." (Lam. 1.12)

Ordinary family life. As an example, I’d like to use one experience from my family: a family wedding. My brother was marrying a girl from Bogota, Colombia. Most of the siblings, my mother, and some relatives traveled to South America for the occasion. At the hotel where the O’Malley group was staying, four of my sisters had gathered in one room, where they were in various stages of preparing for the wedding Mass. One of my sisters was ironing her silk dress for the wedding, and she became distracted in conversation, and scorched her dress with an imprint of the iron. She shouted some words which still ring in my ears! My sisters began to point fingers, blaming each other for this accident. My oldest sister, who is also the meekest sister, said very quietly but sincerely, "I have to get away from this stress-filled family." And she walked out of the room. When we were driving to the church, I was sitting in the front seat of a taxi, and one of my aunts and other family members were in the back seat. In Bogota, cars don’t stop for red traffic lights because when you stop, you are more likely to get robbed. Every intersection was pretty exciting, as cars just drive non-stop through red lights. It sounds chaotic, but it works, most times. My aunt began screaming at the top of her lungs in English, "We’re going to get killed. We’re going to get killed. We’re going to die right here in Bogota." Meanwhile the taxi driver began answering my aunt in his Spanish, in similar volume, with great anger, and vulgar language. My aunt says, "Vincent, what is he saying?" I said, "He is saying: "Relax."

Incidents like this have been repeated a hundred times in the O’Malley household, and I’m sure in many of your households too. I always thought a fascinating book title would have been "Growing up O’Malley", but it probably would not have been classified under one of my saints books.

Family life. A few thoughts for all of us.

  • Thank God for our families. When we children were fighting at home, my father would yell at us, but my mother would shake her head and say, "Children, please stop fighting. When you get older, your brothers and sisters will be your best friends." Truer words were never spoken. Thank God for our families.
  • Be realistic. Most if not all families experience behaviors at times that are not ideal. Don’t pretend these things don’t happen. In Irish families, we refer to alcoholism as the "Irish flu." E.g., "So-and-so suffers with the Irish flu." It is a euphemism, but it faces the truth. Call a spade a spade. If somebody’s behavior is not what it should be, identify it, and talk about it, and try to do something positive about it. Be realistic.
  • Pray. Pray to forgive family members. Pray to be compassionate. Pray for wisdom in dealing with situations. I think many situations have no solution, or certainly not easy and quick solutions, so pray for God’s help in facing situations.
  • Be mutually respectful and caring. Today’s first reading says: "God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. He/she who obeys one’s father brings comfort to their mother." Children, your parents have a vocation from God. Please obey your parents. Parents, please be caring for your children as Joseph and Mary were in today’s gospel.
  • Have a sense of humor. Try to see the inherent God-given goodness in each person. Try to look at life from their perspective, from their window on the world. Humor conveys a certain amount of truth, so as St. Paul says, "Speak the truth with love,"

May God bless all families. Family is the most basic institution in society. Families are the first school of love, and the first school of faith. Today, on Holy Family Sunday, let’s focus on trying to do God’s will, despite the distractions that come into every family’s life, so that our families be holy families.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley