Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Homily for the Feast of The Holy Family ... reading ... Luke 2:22-40

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death  before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace." 

 There was also a prophetess, Anna. She was advanced in years. And coming forward at that very time,  she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. 

This time of year we all enjoy Nativity scenes; where we see the Holy Family, infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph. These are peaceful scenes. The words of Silent Night “all is calm, all is bright” describe the mood.  On the night Jesus was born and the angels sang, and the shepherds came; this was a very special night when heaven and earth stood still for a moment and celebrated. But the events leading up to this moment weren't so peaceful. Today I’d like to review these events, through the eyes of Joseph. 

We don’t talk about him much but he is very important to our faith story. 

What we know of Joseph comes from the birth stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Joseph was a simple man, living a simple life, when God chose him to play this remarkable role in human history. While he was living his life in peace, joyfully awaiting his marriage, suddenly everything changed. His beloved wife became pregnant and he didn’t know by whom. That would shake anyone to their core ... and it did him. As most of us would, he decided he couldn’t go through with the marriage. And then God spoke to him.  God gave him a dream. In this dream, God shared with Joseph His dream for the salvation of the world.

Joseph dreamed – God’s Dream – that night!

When he woke, in obedience to God, he took Mary for his wife. The example this great man gives to all of us is how to follow God through difficult and confusing times. His life teaches us that God’s plans don’t always match our plans. Often in our lives things happen that we never saw coming. Certainly that was true of Joseph. Think about what happened to him ... after ... he said “Yes” to God. 

Once married, when Mary was very pregnant – and we all know what that looks like – Joseph had to put her on a donkey and travel 70 miles. That’s from here (Pacific Beach) to Laguna Beach. When they got to Bethlehem – we don’t know the exact sequence of events – but it’s highly likely Mary was experiencing labor pains. I think donkey rides are probably pretty good at bring on labor. Now we all know the anxiety when a woman is in labor, and we are told in the story that Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay. I certainly hope Mary wasn’t in labor when he was going through that! 

We know that he finds a stable.  In our Nativity scenes these sables are always pristine, but having spent some time on a farm as a boy, I’m not so sure that sable was as sanitary as we like to portray it. According to Luke’s Gospel with no family there to help him, Joseph was likely the only one there to deliver the baby. And this was a time in history when it was common for women to die during child birth. Talk about stressful situations!

So here we are this precious child was born and they have this amazing night we celebrate with the Nativity scene. Then with this night barely done Joseph hears that some evil man wants to kill this beautiful baby. Imagine a death threat on your child! Once again He listens to God and must abandon his home and move this little family to a foreign country. Think about these challenges this man faced.
In today’s Gospel we hear how  when Joseph takes Mary and the child to the Temple, to fulfill a simple requirement of their faith, the priest tells them that this child is destined to create turmoil in Israel and that Mary, his precious wife’s heart, will be pierced by a sword. All of these things happened to Joseph. Joseph was just a regular person, like you and me, simply trying to live a good and peaceful life. But God had other plans.  And Joseph became our model of how to follow God through difficult times.

Joseph’s life changed drastically because of something that happened to someone he loved. When Mary said “Yes” to God, his whole life changed too.  Joseph shows us that so often God’s plan for us can be brought about by things outside of our control ... health ... jobs ... love life ... family ... it can all change without warning. And Joseph is our model of how to be prepared when challenges come.

Scripture describes him as “a righteous man,” which simply means he was a faith-filled and prayerful person.  That is why he was prepared to handle these unforeseen events in his life. The only way he could have dealt with all of this is because he knew God, and he trusted God. Joseph is the picture of how we are all called to be.

Being in-touch with God will help us handle the unforeseen challenges, we all experience in life. Mary and Joseph were simply living their lives day to day, just like us, when everything changed for them. And what we learn from their lives is that good things can come out of the challenges we face, even great things. God doesn’t always remove our challenges. He certainly didn’t for Joseph. But He can work in them. 

In our Gospel reading we see two more examples of this in Simone and Anna. They also were simple people, just dealing with the hand they were dealt by life, being faithful to God, prayerfully trying to serve him; and God used them too, to share his dream.

And He can use us too ... just as he did them! Like Joseph and Simone and Anna, God calls us to dream – God’s dream for the world; and to do our part to make it come true.                                                          
God’s will for us – our call – is first and foremost to strive to be ... a Holy Family ... 
to be like Joseph faith-filled and prayerful. His role ultimately was simply to be ... a good father.  That’s our call too ... to be ... a good father ... or ... a good mother ... a good son ... a good daughter ... sister ... or ... brother.

This is our call.

And what does our call ... to be good family members ... look like?
It’s simple really:
            •           Each day ... to love ... a little bit more than you think you can.
            •           Each day ... to forgive ... a little bit more than you think you can.
            •           Each day ... to be a little bit more patient ... than you think you can.
            •           Each day...to be a little bit kinder and gentler...than you think you can

To bring as much joy - each day - as you can.

If each one of us in this church made that resolution, the Feast of the Holy Family would be a huge success; and it would be one of the best and most practical Christmas gifts we could give ourselves and those around us.

It would bring ...

             joy ... to ourselves
             joy ... to our family
             joy ... to our friends
and      •           joy ... to the world. ...

Then in addition to singing  ... “Joy to the World”... 
we would be doing something about it.

Then we will be helping - God’s Dream - to come true.

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