Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Feast of the Holy Family
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
December 30th, 2012
Year C

During my second year of my seminary studies in Rome, my mother and grandmother came to visit me at Easter time. It was their first time to Italy, so naturally they were super excited. I remember on one occasion we were planning to meet in the afternoon, go to St. Peter’s Basilica for confession and a tour and then get a coffee. Before I arrived, Mom decided to take a walk around the neighborhood, buy some pastries for their room and just admire her surroundings.  Well, she got lost. She could not remember the name of the street where the hotel was located or the name of the hotel. As I was heading to meet them as we planned I found Mom wandering down one of the side streets. I could actually see the look of anxiety in her eyes knowing that she was lost. When our eyes met, a look of sheer relief came over her.

I imagine that this must have been the look that Mary gave Jesus when she and St. Joseph finally found Him among the teachers in the Temple. Even more so, I wonder what must have been in the mind of St. Joseph when Jesus responds to His mother’s plea: “your father and I have been looking for you.” “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Joseph remains silent, Mary ponders, and Jesus is obedient. It seems to me that at the heart of the entire event is love. Love compels the holy couple to search for the child, love allows Joseph to be silent in the midst of his lack of understanding, and love leads Mary to contemplate the mystery of her son in her heart. The Holy Family of Nazareth teaches us, in this short episode that at the heart of their family life, at the heart of their deep faith in God is love. This is not a love that is self-serving or one that seeks self-gratification, this is love in truest form: trusting, sacrificial, an offering, a complete gift of self to another.

We live now in culture, a world that does not know the meaning of love. That promotes self-indulgence and self-seeking as true love, as if loving ourselves in this way leads to fulfillment of life. Ironically, this same culture has proven that this model of love does not work. Just think of the many examples of divorce of marriages, the confusion over what marriage truly means and how it is beneficial for society when protected from disorder. Think of the many babies that are aborted because they inconvenience our way of life. The reign of sin, pride and self-seeking has darkened our world to the point where true love is not known.
This is what makes the family such an important aspect of culture. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of this in one of his homilies on the Holy Family:
“The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love…The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place… The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensible foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruits of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents… The family is also a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity.”

Perhaps the recent tragedy in Connecticut has sparked greater reflection on family. I was moved by the story of the first grade teacher who hid her students from the shooter. She offered her life to protect them. She gave her life that others may live. She was a gift of love. This is the cross; this is precisely why Jesus came into the world – as an offering of love. Family life is meant to teach us the very same principle. Husbands and wives make sacrifices for each other all the time; their love is an image of the cross. They in turn make the same sacrifices for their children. They give themselves to each other as an offering of love. The Second Vatican Council teaches us in the document Gaudiem et Spes that man cannot fully know himself unless he lives his life as gift. As such, he becomes fully alive; he becomes himself because he loves. This is what the family teaches, to become fully who we were created to be – fully alive for God and for others. When we understand love in this way, we bring order and harmony into our immediate family lives and hence influence society as whole because we bring those same virtues into the world in which we live.

May this reflection on the indispensible importance of family remind us of the great need in our world for true examples of love. We are reminded that love is not easy. It is not a sentiment or a passing emotion; it is a choice. Love is deep and resides within deepest core of who are as human beings – we were made for love and thus are capable of loving. Everything in our daily family lives, therefore, can be an offering of love – making dinner, going to work, carting the kids here and there, doing laundry, cleaning the house and the yard, etc – everything can be offered as a gift, a self-less act of love. In this way we are sure to be good examples of love, we are sure to become fully the men and women God has created us to be. Let us choose, everyday, to truly love – sincerely, totally, freely –  and thus become more and more like Christ in our daily lives.

“O God, who in the Holy Family left us a perfect model of family life lived in faith and obedience to your will, help us to be examples of faith and love for your commandments.”







Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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