More Important Than Family

(Holy Family Sunday)

Once when giving a vocations homily, I said, "You know, it would be great if someone gave the church a million dollars. But even more than million dollars we would rather have one of your sons."

After Mass a couple approached me. They looked bedraggled. Standing in front of them, taller than either, was a gangly youngster. They said to me, "Father, our son is still in high school. But you can have him."

I smiled and said, "Thanks." But, fortunately for me - and for the boy - it went no farther.

In today's first reading we hear about a couple who actually did turn their son over to the care of a priest. Especially for the mother it must have been a great sacrifice. Hannah prayed many years for a child and was of advanced age when she and Elkanah conceived Samuel. After nursing him (three years, as was the custom) she informed her husband she was taking the boy to the sanctuary for him to become a "perpetual nazirite." (1 Sam 1:22)

Now this seems like the oddest reading for Holy Family Sunday. It tells about the apparent breakup of a nuclear family. But that would be a quite superficial interpretation. What is happening is not disintegration, but unity on a much deeper level. I'm convinced that if we are going to save the family (and we must if the Church and society is to have a future) we need to first recognize something worth more than even the family. The Catechism states it succinctly:

"Family ties are important but not absolute." (#2232)

That's what today's Old Testament lesson - and Gospel - are about. In the latter (Lk 2:41-52) we have another reading which at first seems jarring for a Sunday emphasizing family. The twelve year old Jesus separates himself from his mother and guardian for three days, causing them an anguish most of us can barely imagine. Perhaps parents whose child has disappear may understand the torture: Was he kidnapped? Did he run away? Is he alive or dead? Certainly being an only child intensifies the distress.

I cannot explain why Jesus did this to his parents. Somehow it must relate to the Pascal Mystery which also involved "three days." Mary did not get an answer which satisfied her. Rather she "kept all these things in her heart." (Lk 2:51)

Now Jesus is clearly not teaching impertinence. Just the opposite. The only description we have of his next years is that he "was obedient to them." But at that moment he had to be in his Father's house. (v. 49) The terrible suffering in that scene can only be understood in relation to a tie that truly is absolute.

If we are going to save the family - and indeed begin to understand the sufferings of our lives - we must put God first. And consider the time spent in our "Father's house" as the most valuable of all.



From Archives:

Holy Family Sunday 2009: With Great Anxiety
2008: The Dignity of Marriage
2007: Honor Your Father and Mother
2004: The Most Diverse Family
2003: The Key to Family
2002: Saintly Seniors
2001: The Holy Family in Egypt
2000: More Important Than Family
1998: How to Avoid Bitterness
1996: You Are My Father

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish

Wedding Homily

Praying at West Seattle Planned Parenthood

See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm

The Fiery Furnace

Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven

Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion

Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History

He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."

Germaine Greer on Birth Control

Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)

Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church

Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?

Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father

Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs

Call No Man Father

What is Original Sin of Sex?

Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)

Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath

Ossuary of James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus