30 Dec – Feast of the Holy Family
The Holy Family
We celebrate that Holy Family of Nazareth which is the model for all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
– the Sunday Missal
Letters To A Hospital
This is an extremely honest, off-the-cuff letter to the staff of a hospital.
To Each Staff Member of this Facility:
As you pick up that chart today and scan that green Medicaid card, I hope you will remember what I am about to say.
I spent yesterday with you. I was there with my mother and father. We didn’t know where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do, for we had never needed your services before. We have never before been labelled charity. I watched yesterday as my dad became a diagnosis, a chart, a case number, a charity case labelled “no sponsor” because he had no health insurance.
I saw a weak man stand in line, waiting for five hours to be shuffled through a system of impatient office workers, a burned-out nursing staff and a budget-scarce facility, being robbed of any dignity and pride he may have had left. I was amazed at how impersonal your staff was, huffing and blowing when the patient did not present the correct form, speaking carelessly of other patients’ cases in front of passersby, of lunch breaks that would be spent away from this “poor man’s hell”.
My dad is only a green card, a file number to clutter your desk on appointment day, a patient who will ask for directions twice after they have been mechanically given the first time. But, no, that’s not really my dad. That’s only what you see.
What you don’t see is a cabinet-maker since the age of 14, a self-employed man who has a wonderful wife, four grown kids (who visit too much), and five grandchildren (with two more on the way) – all of whom think their “pop” is the greatest. This man is everything a daddy should be – strong and firm, yet tender, rough around the edges, a country boy, yet respected by prominent business owners.
He’s my dad, the man who raised me through thick and thin, gave me away as a bride, held my children at their births, stuffed a $20 bill into my hand when times were tough and comforted me when I cried. now we are told that before long cancer will take this man away from us.
You may say these are the words of a grieving daughter lashing out in helplessness at the prospect of losing a loved one. I would not disagree. Yet I would urge you not to discount what I say. Never lose sight of the people behind your charts. Each chart represents a person – with feelings, a history, a life – whom you have the power to touch for one day by your words and actions. Tomorrow it may be your loved one – your relative or neighbour – who turns into a case number, a green card, a name to be marked off with a yellow marker as done for the day.
I pray that you will reward the next person you greet at your station with a kind word or smile because that person is someone’s dad, husband, wife, mother, son, or daughter – or simply because he or she is a human being, created and loved by God, just as you are.
– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?
– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14
The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.
You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these cloths, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, give way to your husbands, ad you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared in Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.” So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:
I called my son out of Egypt.
After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he left for the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:
He will be called a Nazarene.
Have you ever seen an icon of the Holy Family which shows a halo around Mary’s and Jesus’ heads, but no halo around Joseph’s? It reminds me of the saying that Joseph had a difficult time as a father, because every time he got into an argument with his wife or son, he would always be in the wrong, since the other two are without sin.
However, living with a person who is without sin is quite different from living from a person who is always right. Living with the latter can be quite stressful, because it always means that we are in the wrong. But when we live with a person without sin, it doesn’t mean that the sinless person can’t be in the wrong. This might be hard to grasp, because we have the understanding that a person who is sinless is never in the wrong. That is not what it means to be sinless.
The first and second readings give us an idea of what it means to live a sinless life as a husband or wife, a father or mother, a son or a daughter. To live a sinless life is to treat other family members with sincere compassion, with kindness and humility, with gentleness and patience. To bear with one another and to forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.
Hence, when we reflect on the Holy Family, we understand that far from Joseph having a difficult time, he probably had an easier time with his family members, because Mary, as a holy wife, probably gave way a lot to her husband as he struggled to live a life that is in obedience to what God was calling him to. Jesus too, as a son, probably obeyed his father most, if not all, of the time. I cannot imagine either one of them insisting on doing something that Joseph believed was not good for them.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, the model for all families to live by. In the gospel reading, we see the angel appear to Joseph, the head of the family, and telling him to follow some instructions. Joseph does so, in obedience to the Lord, and he brings his family with him. Mary obeys Joseph too, as he is her husband, and she does so because she respects him as the head of the household.
We do not live in families where the members are very holy and sinless people. It is not so easy for us to live a life in obedience to one another, especially when we believe that our parents, or our spouses, are in the wrong. But as we see from today’s readings, whether we are wrong or right in a particular decision is not what makes a family holy. What makes a family holy is how we go about treat other members of the family.
Do we treat other family members with respect and compassion? Do we give way to them in kindness and humility, rather than grudgingly? Are we gentle and patient with them? Do we bear their faults with understanding and love? Do we forgive them as soon as a quarrel begins, or do we harbour a grudge for days or weeks?
If we do not treat our own family members in this way, how will we be able to treat others with love? If we truly desire peace in the world, then we have to start right where we are – in our own families. Let us work towards a more loving and peaceful world by first loving and making peace within our own families, by building holy families.
We offer a prayer today for our own family, and we ask the Lord to grant us the grace to follow the model of the Holy Family. We especially pray for all men who are heads of their families, that they may live a life of obedience to the Lord as Joseph did, and that they may be respected by their wives and children. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: The model of the Holy Family.
Mon, 31 Dec – 1 John 2:18-21; John 1:1-18; Memorial for St. Sylvester I, pope
Tue, 01 Jan – Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21; Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; World Day of Prayer for Peace
Wed, 02 Jan – 1 John 2:22-28; John 1:19-28; Memorial for Sts. Basil the Great and Nazianzen, bishops, doctors
Thu, 03 Jan – 1 John 2:29 – 3:6; John 1:29-34; Memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus
Fri, 04 Jan – 1 John 3:7-10; John 1:35-42
Sat, 05 Jan – 1 John 3:11-21; John 1:43-51
Sun, 06 Jan – Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12; Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
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