lundi, janvier 12, 2009

Sermon for the feast of the Holy Family

The family has its origin in that same love with which the Creator embraces the created world, Pope John Paul II said in his letter to families. In fact all things, that have been created and founded by God, and therefore that are good, have their origin in the Divine love. The whole creation bears a certain image of God and allows us to have a certain knowledge of Him. There is an order and a hierarchy among the creatures which express the perfection of the Divine order and of God Himself. At the summit of the created world, there is a creature that seems to have God’s preference.
Pope John Paul II said again that before creating man, the Creator withdraws as it were into himself, in order to seek the pattern and inspiration in the mystery of his Being, which is already here disclosed as the divine "We". From this mystery the human being comes forth by an act of creation: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27).
At the very beginning, we catch a sight of God’s intimacy, especially at the moment when He creates man. Before creating each thing, He said : Let there be! Now He says: Let us make ! Us! Let us make man to our image in our likeness! Our! There are more than one person in God. There is the Father. There is the Son. Father, Son! The concept of family is already present within the Holy Trinity. And from the love between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds from all eternity.

And now the Three Divine Persons create man, the jewel of the whole creation, to their image and likeness. God creates man with a distinction of gender: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. Then, right after, He gives them an order, the first order ever given to men: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. And John Paul II comments this: The Book of Genesis employs the same expressions used earlier for the creation of other living beings: "multiply". But it is clear that these expressions are being used in an analogous sense. Is there not present here the analogy of begetting and of fatherhood and motherhood, which should be understood in the light of the overall context? No living being on earth except man was created "in the image and likeness of God". Human fatherhood and motherhood, while remaining biologically similar to that of other living beings in nature, contain in an essential and unique way a "likeness" to God which is the basis of the family as a community of human life, as a community of persons united in love (communio personarum).
A family is founded by the marital covenant, when a man and a woman decide to unite themselves for their whole life. From this mutual love that makes a community of persons, new live spring. Wife and husband are procreators, ‘creators’ with God of new human persons. The love between each member of a family is an image of the love between the Three Divine Persons. Among all the human families, there is one that expresses more than any others this Divine Love: this is the Holy Family.
The second Person of the Holy Trinity has made visible the invisible things by His Incarnation. And it is precisely within a family that the Word of God was made flesh. In this family, there is an order and there is a hierarchy that express the divine perfections and the love of God. This family has a head: Saint Joseph. And Jesus and Mary are submitted to them and we do not see anywhere that it is a shame for them or a proof of inferiority. It was even the opposite: Jesus, the Incarnate Word, Holy, because God, source of holiness for men, is subject to His parents. How admirable is the humility of Christ and His obedience! Being made in the likeness of men, He humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, Saint Paul says. We are made in the likeness of God, but because of our pride, we are disobedient. So, Christ, made in our likeness, by His humility shows us the way of obedience, the only way that can lead us to God and give us back the divine life.
Learn, O Man, to obey, Saint Bernard says. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O Dust, to submit. The Evangelist in speaking of thy Maker says: He was subject to them; that is, without doubt, to Mary and to Joseph. Be you ashamed, vain ashes that you are. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt yourself? God becomes subject to men, and will you, eager to lord it over men, place yourself above your Maker? O would that God might deign to make me, thinking such thoughts at times in my own mind, such answer as He made, reproving him, to His apostle: Go behind Me, Satan: because thou savorest not the things that are of God.
At the very beginning of his rule, Saint Benedict encourages his sons to practice the virtue of obedience: Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away. And we know that Saint Benedict wants the monasteries to be schools of the Lord’s service.
But the first school of the Lord’s service, where all men are trained and educated is the family. It is there, that the children learn the virtues, provided that their parents teach them by their words and acts and first by the example of their own lives. It is in their family that children learn to practice the virtue of obedience that allows them to return to God. But in order to practice the virtue of obedience, they need a leader that guides them toward heaven and teach them how to serve God. That is the mission of the father.
Father, understand that you represent Christ in your family and that you are vested with His authority upon your wife and your children. As Saint Joseph led the Holy Family through the dangers and hazards of this world, you have to lead your family to a safe place. Saint Joseph was told by an angel. You too, have to take your counsels from heaven. If you want to guide your family, you have first to be well guided. After almost nine years of priesthood, I have noticed, that only a few men come for spiritual direction, and most of the time, they are young men who discern their vocation and often join a seminary or a religious community. But it is rare to see a father of family coming for spiritual direction. Yet, you need it, as anyone else, and I would say, even more than many others who do not have the care of souls. Father and husband, remember that your children and your wife need your direction!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph! Fathers, mothers and children, we have in Jesus, Mary and Joseph models to pray to and to imitate. Let us pray to them so that our family can become and remain school of the Lord’s service and schools of prayer for the highest glory of God and the sanctification of our souls.

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