With Great Anxiety

(Homily for Holy Family Sunday)

Bottom line: When the Holy Family faced a crisis, their suffering connected to the the Pascal Mystery - and we see that Joseph and Mary had done the hard work of forming a common perspective.

I want to thank you - my first Christmas in Monroe was wonderful.

On this Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We often have a tranquil picture of the Holy Family: Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright. So it must have been most of the time. Still, the Gospels describe events that shattered their tranquility: The Flight into Egypt when they became refugees fleeing amurderous despot and, today, the anguish of searching for a missing child.

We do not know all the details, but it seemed to happen this way: Mary and Joseph travelled for a day, supposing that everything was fine. When they discovered Jesus' absence they were a good distance from Jerusalem. Perhaps they searched at different spots outside of Jerusalem, but - however it happened - it took three days to finally locate their son. Mary speaks to Jesus about how they had been looking for him "with great anxiety." "My son," she says, "why have you done this?"

Why did Jesus do this? I have no simple answer, but we can be confident he was not acting on a whim. Scripture scholars give us some clues. They observe that "three days" has special significance in the Bible. St. Paul, for example, emphasizes that Jesus rose from the dead on the "third day."* (I Cor 15:3-4) Losing and then finding Jesus apparently has some relationship to the events of his death, burial and resurrection. We hear today that Mary "kept all these things in her heart." She did not brood, but she wondered and prayed. The frantic three-day search, horrible as it was, prepared Mary for a much great trial.

Whatever the losing and finding of Jesus meant for Mary and Joseph, we can be sure that Jesus wants us to gain something from this event. For me it is this: I have been a parish priest for almost forty years - and I have seen no greater suffering than the loss of a child. We experienced it in my own family last month with the death Benjamin. On Christmas day, I spent a good of time talking with and listening to my sister-in-law about Ben. A family from Peru notified that their teenage daughter is missing. They do not know if she has been kidnapped, has run away - or is dead. Their grief is beyond imagining.

Joseph and Mary experienced similar "great anxiety." Now, for them it did turn into immense joy when they found Jesus on the "third day." I would alway encourage parents not to despair, to give up hope. But I would invite them to join the Blessed Virgin in standing at the foot the cross. She knows your anguish.

There is something else we can learn from this mystery. It is small detail, but it has significance in indicating how Joseph and Mary responded to a crisis.When Mary addresses Jesus, she says, "Your father and I have been looking for you..." She could have spoken about a mother's anguish, how Jesus' disappearence had torn her heart in two - and, certainly, no one would have blamed her. But she did not speak from a personal perspective. She spoke from the perspective of matrimony: That husband and wife strive for unity, a common vision.

Unity, working for a common perspective, requires daily effort and great humility. Mary and Joseph had done that work. Therefore, with perfect naturalness, Mary could say, "Your father and I."

The phrase "your father and I," has significance for married couples and families. It also has something to say to our parish family. I want us to have a common vision. I try to communicate with you in the bulletin, in homilies, in the website, in our religious program and other opportunities. I also want to hear from you. For that reason we are having "Meet and Greet" session in homes of parishioners. And of course, before making major decisions, I want to consult with the Parish Council, Finance Council, Building Commission or other appropriate group. As father of this parish family I have the final decision, but I want to work toward the kind of unity we see in the Holy Family.

I would like to mention in passing that while Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus' "father," he is not Our Lord's physical father. He is, however, father in in every sense that matters most. I will talk with you some other day about the importance of Joseph's spiritual fatherhood.

What I want you to take home are two lessons: When the Holy Family faced a crisis, their suffering became related to the passion, death and resurrection - the Pascal Mystery. That's the first and most important lesson. The second is that they had done the hard work of forming a common vision, a common perspective. They will help us do the same in our families - and in our parish family.


The Catechism has a section titled: On the Third Day He Rose from the Dead:

The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness. In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . ." The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus. (#639)

General Intercessions for Holy Family sunday (from Priests for Life)

Earlier Version

Spanish Version

From Archives:

Holy Family Sunday 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

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(surrounded by vices, even in a country parish)

Pictures from Peru

(delegation with children at Peru orphanage)

Report on Diego's operations - with pictures (pdf file)

Fr. Frank Pavone: Reid Health Care Bill Is A Gift Americans Won’t Accept

U.S. Bishops: The current health care reform bill is “deficient” and should not move forward without “essential changes,” the chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The legislative proposal now advancing “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions -- a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” the bishops said.

They said that the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives “keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions” and “ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.” The Senate bill does not maintain this commitment.

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