GIVE THANKS. EMBRACE. PRAY.

December 27, 2020 – Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122720.cfm)

Homily

Few days before Christmas, I gave an Advent Recollection to a group of Church volunteers. At the beginning of the recollection, I asked them to describe their gratefulness as well as their feelings at that moment. A couple in their late fifties, were already in tears. At the end of the recollection one of my invitations is “to never forget to embrace their loved one and to spend quality time this Christmas.” The couple again were in tears.

After the recollection, they shared to me the reasons of those tears. They were in so much anxiety and worries because their son has been away from them. They found it difficult to communicate with him and to know his situation. They did not know where he was exactly at that moment. The mother couldn’t sleep well thinking of her son. The father was restless and helpless on how he could help and comfort his son. Both of them were in tears because they have missed so much their son.

To the disappointment of the couple as parents, their other children have shown less compassion and understanding to their sibling. The siblings considered the other one as a black sheep and rebellious. Yet, to them as parents, he is a son in need of so much understanding and love. They wanted to hug him tightly yet, they could not do it. They wanted to comfort him, yet, they could not because they cannot reach him. It was a great pain in the hearts of these parents who are longing of the presence of their son.

Conflict in the family such as this, is just one of the common problems that our families have to struggle and find way to be resolved. The hope for reconciliation is a longing that we pray for.

Moreover, there are also other issues and problems that millions of Filipino Families are facing today. It would be good also to recognize those issues and see how God is inviting us on this Feast of the Holy Family.

The recent SWS survey said that 48% or about 12 million Filipino families considered themselves poor. Out of this, 2 million families were “Newly Poor” while 1.3 million were “usually poor” and 8.6 million were “always poor.”[1]

In addition, the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions also led to the closing of many non-essential businesses, which resulted to the loss of many jobs and means of livelihood. The SWS survey in October also revealed that the unemployment rate in the country is now at 8.7%, equivalent to around 3.8 million jobless Filipinos.[2]

The Philippine National Demographic and Health survey said that in 2017, one in four Filipino women aged 15-49 suffered domestic abuses, physically, emotionally and sexually. However, this rate has significantly increased since the lockdown imposed in March due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. There is an average of 8 cases of women being maltreated or raped reported from March to May 2020.[3] These are just the documented reports, how about those countless unreported cases? They suffer in silence.

These are concrete situations that many of our Filipino families are suffering. In the midst of these struggles, children are also the most vulnerable. Children suffer the most. Our own families might have also particular struggles and difficulties. Surely, these concerns are most of the time what consume us.

The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus is not exempted of struggles and problems. Remember, 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 a constant threat in the life of the young Jesus, yet, this 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 deep within his heart.

In today’s Gospel, this awareness of God is being described to us in wonderful scenarios. First, Mary and Joseph, conscious of their family tradition as well of the identity of baby Jesus, went to Jerusalem and presented Jesus to the Lord God. This was an act of thanksgiving to the Almighty God for the gift of this child.

This is the first invitation for us today – to give thanks. Develop a grateful atmosphere in your family. Consciously say “thank you” to your spouse and children. Whenever your family gathers whether during a meal, a trip or in a celebration, give thanks to each other and to God, the source of all blessings.

Second, Simeon, a devout and righteous man had been waiting for the time to see and embrace the Son of God. And this was fulfilled. The long wait of Simeon was paid with peace and joy. He was able to hold tightly the child Jesus in his arms. That must be a great consolation to him. Having Jesus in his arms, Simeon saw the salvation and the light of God.

This is the second invitation for us – to embrace the Lord and embrace one another. Our family might be longing for peace, longing for comfort – take courage, the Lord is here as Simeon proclaimed. The Lord is waiting for us that we will embrace him. Peace and joy begin to unfold in our families when we also open our arms in reconciliation and in gentleness, to embrace each other. Let not the violence of our fist and anger in our heart destroy our families and children.

Third, Anna the prophetess, was also there to witness this great wonder of meeting the Lord. Anna immediately recognized that the child Jesus was the promised savior. Anna was so patient and prayerful. These attitudes in her made her to long more for God. This longing in her heart made her to be open and welcoming. With this, Anna’s heart found comfort and joy. All her troubles and pain had gone away.

This is the third invitation for us – to pray together as a family. Through our prayer, let usconsciously long for God and joyfully meet the Lord in our struggles and problems. To run away for our problems or to hide because of our fears is never the solution. There are those who find comfort in drinking and gambling and other vices to forget their problems yet, this kind of response only create more problems. Unfaithfulness, indifference and violence in the family will be nurtured by this kind of attitude. We are invited rather to confront our issues and allow the Lord to touch us through our prayers. Gather your family around your altar. Cultivate a family tradition that prays together. Let our families go the Church, and there in our Sacraments, allow also the Lord to be with you and to bless you.

With these invitations, we may hopefully ease the pain of loneliness, comfort the hearts of the troubled, heal the memories of those who are suffering and assure with our presence those who are confused and afraid. May our families then, be blessed by the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Hinaut pa.


[1] https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1371761/almost-half-of-filipino-families-feel-they-are-poor-latest-sws-survey-says

[2] https://www.rappler.com/business/unemployment-rate-philippines-october-2020

[3] https://www.ucanews.com/news/domestic-violence-all-the-rage-in-philippine-lockdown/89821#

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