Sunday, 29 December 2013

Homiletic thoughts for the Feast of the Holy Family

At Mass this morning, the celebrating priest abandoned his prepared homily in favour of sharing with the faithful some of Pope Paul VI's address given at Nazareth on 5th January 1964. An extract from this address forms the second reading of the Office of Readings for the feast day, and can be found at the Universalis website here; father had prayed it shortly before Mass. The full text, in the original French, can be found at the Vatican website here. Father used the Universalis English text which is, I understand, different in some respects from that printed in the books of the Divine Office used in England and Wales (cf Fr Lucie-Smith's comment here). Father shared with the faithful three lessons that Pope Paul VI indicated we could learn from the place of Nazareth:
First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.
Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.
 Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognise its value – demanding yet redeeming – and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.
The second homiletic thought is from the "Day by Day" reading in Magnificat for today. It is part of an intervention by Liugi Giussani at a meeting on "The Fatherhood of God and Fatherhood in the Family" organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1999. The full text was published in Communion and Liberation's magazine Traces in October 1999.
What can a father and mother wish more than to be able to look at and deal with their children with this gaze on what is human, in the imitation of Christ? Then, what is implied by the fact that a man and a woman want their union to be "blessed" by Christ and thus to become a Sacrament? This implies that the unity of their persons is understood and lived in function of God's Kingdom, and therefore of the human glory of Christ. Life itself is given us for this. The expression "human glory of Christ" means that the Mystery makes itself in some way visible, tangible, perceivable, experienceable because of a new reality that is created in its name.
The family is the locus of education in belonging, of education to the experience of fatherhood and, hence, of motherhood. In the family it is evident that the fundamental element in development of the person lies in the mutual, conjugated belonging of two factors: man and woman.
It is in the family that true belonging reveals itself as freedom, for true belonging is freedom. Freedom is that capacity to adhere-to the point of identification and assimilation-to what makes us be, to our Destiny, and it is made possible by our bond with it.
In ways that might not have been foreseen at the times at which these two speeches were first delivered, they both have a very striking relevance to the situation of the family after the widespread adoption of legislative proposals in favour of same-sex unions. It is probably also true that they reflect to a significantly lesser degree the actual experience of families today than at the times that they were delivered. However, even in those circumstances where family life is lived in a broken or imperfect way, it is nevertheless lived in an orientation towards the objective content and value of married/family life. In exercising the "catechetical moment" the Church can rightly offer the teaching of these two homiletic thoughts; and, in the accompanying "pastoral moment" that responds to the situation of individual families, the Church walks alongside and accompanies in practical and spiritual ways families that experience hardship and challenge.

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