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Today is the Solemnity of the Holy Family, the first Sunday of the New Year. The 1st reading, taken from the book of Sirach, and the 2nd reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, come together to paint a picture of how a Christ-centered family should function, by outlining how each member of the family ought to behave in their various roles. In Colossians 3:18-21, St. Paul writes, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” [Submission here is a voluntary choice that the wife makes for the greater good of the family; not an act of debasement. It is a faith issue, recognizing the husband as the God-appointed leader of the household and it is done “as it fitting in the Lord” (So, a woman whose husband is evil and cruel and violent is not expected to do this)].

“Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them” [The word for love that is used here is as in selfless love, sacrificial love, unceasing care and loving service for your wife’s entire well-being. It is similar to the love that Christ has for the church (sacrificial) and it is to be similar to the love men have for themselves (generous). Paul's admonishment here requires a man to keep in mind who his wife is—a gift from God (Proverbs 18:22), a partner for life ( Genesis 2:24), and a mother for his children ( Genesis 4:1)].

“Children obey your parents in everything; for this is pleasing to the Lord” and “honor your father and mother” [Obedience to parents is a good measure of the level of Christlikeness in our lives. The book of Sirach states that honoring parents is a sign of righteousness; it atones for and is firmly planted against the debt of our sin (3:3,14); it is a means of divine blessing and disposes God to hear and answer the prayers of those who exercise this virtue (3:5); it is a guarantee for long life, prosperity, and temporal power (3:6-7); and even the patience required for the care of an elderly parent is said to strengthen character and that God would look upon children offering such care with compassion (3:12-14). It goes on to state that the respect due to our parents is not something we can neglect or discard without serious consequences, noting that honoring our parents is something that God set up to orient us toward Himself. That is to say, honoring our parents disposes the heart to honor God, Himself. Honoring our parents is not just about listening and obeying them; it also entails not taking for granted the sacrifices they make for us; taking responsibility for some of the household chores; learning to have a rational discussion about things that you and your parents disagree about; being patient with them if they can’t see your view point knowing that they may have insights that you don’t have because you haven’t experienced all the things that they have. It demands staying connected and not just in contact with them, making sure they are well taken care of in their old age, keeping them up to date with what’s happening in your life and in the outside world; making sure they stay connected with their grandchildren. Folks, enjoy your parents while they are still here with you! Forgive their sins and give them a break. It is for your own good.

“Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col 3:18-21) [Parents have authority but they are not to overdo the authority thing—creating a home that is an overbearing prison, setting goals too high for your children, being inconsistent with your promises, lacking in praise and appreciation, being absent in the children’s life, or creating favoritism leading to sibling jealousy. Parental authority is to be used to provide for a safe and encouraging place for children to grow up. Children become discouraged when they cannot please, properly obey, or secure a blessing from their parents. Such discouragement can easily lead to either depression and withdrawal or rebellion and acting out.

May the blessings of the Holy Family be ours now and forever! Amen].

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