December 29, 2019 – Feast of the Holy Family
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122919.cfm
We, Filipinos are known to have a culture that values very much our family. Indeed, we have a family-centered culture. Family is always the top priority. This is manifested how a simple celebration becomes crowded and loud.
Yet, through the years, as time has changed, our families also face different challenges. It would be good for us, then, to look at the challenges of Filipino families as we also celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Family.
There are 3 challenges that I want to highlight today. The first two came out when I gave a retreat to grade 6 pupils and divided them into 5 groups. I asked them to portray and dramatize the joys and blessings as well as issues and problems present in their families. Surprisingly, all the 5 groups in that retreat revealed the first two issues that I am going to point out.
First, the Filipino families are “forced” to separate due to migration. This is because of the current trend of OFW families. Parents would choose to work abroad in order to provide better opportunities for their children. As a result, children are left behind to relatives or to their grandparents. Absentee parents could sometimes create deep longing to their children. This longing sometimes generate emotional distance or indifference between parents and children.
Second, “Irregular” relationships or extra-marital relationships have left families broken and deeply wounded. Unfaithfulness between spouses brings traumatic experiences to children because it also leads to neglect and abuses. The family especially the young children are exposed to depression, confusion, insecurity and loneliness. Because of this, physical, mental or even sexual abuse happen in this domestic environment
Third, poverty affects families the most. The third quarter of SWS survey last September found that 42% or an estimated 10.3 million of families considered themselves as Poor. This has already gone down from 45% last June. The survey also found a 35% or about 8.5 million of families rated their FOOD or access to food as POOR. This is as of June 2019. There are also thousands of families who have been affected by the earthquakes here in Mindanao and recently by the typhoon Ursula that left them at the mercy of relief goods from different organizations.
These are just three of the many challenges that millions of Filipino families are facing today. Our own families might also have particular struggles and difficulties. These concerns are most of the time what consume us.
Being made aware of our family struggles, we may also ask, what is the Lord inviting us to reflect? It is good then for us to look closely at the life of the Holy Family, of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
This family is not exempted of struggles and problems. The holy family had been a refugee. Joseph has to bring Mary and Jesus out of Israel and went to Egypt to seek for a safer environment for their baby.
There seemed to be constant threat in the life of the young Jesus, yet, that did not discourage Joseph and Mary to abandon the child. Joseph particularly was always conscious of God’s presence. This was the reason also why Joseph would always receive instructions from God on what to do. The awareness of Joseph that God is with them made him more familiar with God’s voice.
Joseph has pointed out to us the priority of being with God and of being constantly conscious of God’s presence in our family. Indeed, through Jesus, he made God’s presence ever present in that family of Joseph and Mary. And yes, God dwells in every family too, in our families.
This is the invitation for us – to make God our priority in the family. Just like the Holy Family, make our families closer to God by praying together, like by going to the Church.
But of course, as the Holy Family also faced difficulties, our own families too have experience trials and challenges like financial crisis or poverty, sickness, death, separations and conflicts. But God assures as now, that as long as we remain in Him, and trust Him, God shall always be with us to keep us together, to strengthen us in the midst of trials.
It means that if we will only allow God to dwell in our family and allow him to be part of our family, God’s favor shall be with us, His blessings shall be with our families. And so I would like to invite you then with these two simple actions.
First, spend enough quality time together… what I mean is… let us not be distracted with our latest gadgets. Our smartphones, tablets and ipads are meant to bring us closer together but they can be means also to bring us farther from each other. Remember this, real conversation is what the family keeps together. Do not let our gadgets keep us apart. Do not just allow your children and yourself to be so absorbed with gadgets. Talk with one another and play!
Second, pray together! Bring what you have received during the mass to your home. Extend your religious expression, your faith in God at your family table by encouraging your children lead the prayer before meals. But at first, they need to have an example, and it is through you, parents.
In these ways, we make a room for God to enter and dwell in our families. We are assured that God is with us, that we are not alone in facing the challenges that are to come. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR