Sunday Sermon for December 27, 2015, The Feast of the Holy Family, Year C

Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; 1Jn 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52
In the first reading today we hear that God has set a father in honor over his children and a mother’s authority He confirms over her sons. This becomes very important for us on two different levels. First, on the natural level where God Himself has set an order for the family. Study after study has confirmed what we have always known and taught, that is, that what is best for children is to be in a home with both of the child’s own biological parents. There have always been reasonable exceptions to this rule, for instance, in cases of adoption or when one is widowed, but in our day we are trying to justify just about anything and calling it a family.

These social variations are not only not good for children, they are often not natural. But even where there are settings where the married couple is living with their children, we have another problem. That is that parents do not want to be parents. We have seen that there is honor and authority that are given by God, but today it seems that people want to be their children’s friends rather than their parents. While good relationships with one’s children are highly desired, to simply be a buddy to a child rather than to be a parent is not good for anyone.

For this reason, we have to look to the other set of relationships that have been established by God. In the second reading we hear that we are God’s children. God has revealed Himself as Father. What a great grace for us because we do not have a God Who is distant and separate from His creation, but we have a God Who is close to us and wants to be in a relationship with us. The relationship we have with God must be one of Father and children. People of today keep trying to project our brokenness in family relationships onto our relationship with God. We just want Him to be our buddy rather than our Father.

Having said this, we must understand that if we are adults, God is not going to treat us like little children nor does he want us to act like little children. However, He wants us to recognize His authority; He is not going to change to become our little buddy, even if that is what we try to make Him into. We must be in right relationship with Him. As our Father we know that He loves us and that He will do anything for us. However, he will only do for us those things that are truly the best for us. In other words, He is going to say “no” to us when we seek something that is not the best. He is going to discipline us so that we can learn and grow.

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that our Father wants us to recognize His authority. We must be clear that this is not about a power trip. He does not want to lord anything over us. If that were the case, it would be abusive and just the opposite side of trying to be a buddy. God’s relationship with us is proper, that is, He does everything out of love for us. Because He loves us, He serves us. So, if we have a proper love for Him, we will want to serve Him, i.e., to honor Him and be submissive to Him. Tthese are in accord with our dignity when done in love.

On the natural level, one cannot be a father unless there is a mother in the picture as well. God is a Father because He is the Creator and is not in need of a woman in order to make us. However, when His Son became man, God chose that He would be born of a woman. As one who is the Mother of God, our Lady is our spiritual mother as well. We see in the Gospel reading not only the marital relationship between our Lady and St. Joseph, but we see the humility of Jesus submitting to the authority of His human parents.

Our Lord told His parents that He had to be in His Father’s house, so we can know with certainty that His decision to go back to Nazareth and obey our Lady and St. Joseph was clearly the will of God. This serves as the model for us.

The only hope for the world is to have solid families that are founded on divine principles with parents who are in right relationships with one another, with God and with their children. This is the example given by the Holy Family; it brings us fulfillment by loving and honoring God and one another.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit