Homily for the feast of the holy family C

We celebrate today the feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Church presents this family as an example of a perfect family and a source of encouragement to so many families facing challenging situations at the moment.Holy family The holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph also faced challenges; they were challenged at different life points but did not break up. We pray today that the holy family may intercede for all the families of our world.

In our first reading this morning, we see how Hannah, the great woman of faith, conceived and gave birth to a Son named Samuel. She so named the child because she asked him of the Lord. Childlessness was her problem, though her husband had other children from another woman. Hannah was childless, and that was a big problem in the family. Hannah took her problem, her family problem to the Lord. She cried before God with a vow to dedicate the child to him if her wish is granted, and God heard and granted her heart desire. Hannah fulfilled her promise to dedicate him to the Lord.

There are challenges in almost every family; one of the greatest mistakes we can make as a family is to believe that our family problems are unique and that no other family is challenged like ours. Remember, there is nothing new under the sun; that problem you believe is unique to your family is exactly what so many other families have gone through, and some are still going through.

In today’s liturgy, we are called to let ourselves be encouraged by the fact that so many have gone through the same challenges we are going through and succeeded with God’s help. We are called to look up to Hannah and let our faith be challenged to say with St. Paul, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Hannah took her problem to the Lord, she cried before the Lord, and the Lord heard and restored her joy. That is what we are called to do as a family, to take our problems, our challenges to the Lord in prayer to let him transform them into a celebration. When Hannah prayed and cried to God with her whole heart, she appeared like a drunkard to Eli the prophet. But when the Lord answered her prayer, she was transformed to the extent that Eli couldn’t recognize her; she had to introduce herself by saying,Jesus,Mary and Joseph Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me my petition, which I made to him. Hannah dedicated the child and left him there as she promised. The God of Hannah is still alive; he knows your family challenges, no matter what it may be.

The holy family we celebrate today had their own challenges. Those challenges did not remove the holiness of the family. It did not make them question the reality and potency of God; like Hannah, in the Old Testament, they trusted in God. The family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were poor, unrecognized, yet a family of faith. It was a persecuted family, hunted by the civil authority and despised by men. In our gospel reading this morning, we see how the family’s only child was lost for three days. Imagine the agony the parents went through until they found him in the Temple. As if that was not enough, they lost him again for another three days to the power of death until they found him at the resurrection. In all these, the family remained faithful to God; they did not ask God why their only child should be lost while carrying out their religious duty while serving him. They did not ask God why they surfer despite their dedications to the Church.

Just as Hannah dedicated her son and left him in the temple, so also in our gospel passage this morning, Jesus stayed back in the Temple after the religious ceremony. That is where we belong, the house of God. That is where we are to be found because we are children of God, as Paul tells us in the second reading.

The Psalmist reminds us in the responsorial psalm that blessed are they who dwell in the house of God, how lovely is God’s dwelling place. As Hannah dedicated her son to the Lord, and as Jesus said, he must be in his Father’s house, so also we are called today to re-dedicate our families to God. Our families should be a reflection of the holy family, a family that listens to the voice of God as Mary and Joseph did, a family where children are brought up to be obedient as Jesus was to his parents. Our families should be a family of prayer, for the family that prays together stays together. Our family problems shouldn’t force us to give up on God but lead us to God for help.

We pray today that the holy family of Nazareth may intercede for families of the world and make our families like theirs through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as a pastor in two different parishes, he was a one-time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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