Sunday Sermon for December 28, 2014, Feast of the Holy Family, Year B

Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2: 22-40
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. In a particular way this refers to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. However, it also refers to all families that are striving to live according to the ways of holiness and truth. It is incumbent upon us to consider these points because they are regularly denied or rejected in our day.

To live according to the truth does not mean that we can look at and admit to what is happening within a household. Rather, it means the conformity of our minds to the truth as it is revealed by God. Regarding families, this begins with the marriage of a man and a woman in a sacramental unity which can only be brought about by the Lord.

It is well understood that there are many heroic single parents who are trying to raise their children in a holy manner. There have always been widows and those who have been abandoned. These people will tell you that they would prefer not to be trying to go it alone. Most often through no fault of their own, they find themselves in difficult circumstances and are trying to make the best of the situation. They, however, would be the first to admit that an intact family is far superior to what they are attempting.

It is interesting to see how far St. Luke goes out of his way in the Gospel reading today to make clear that everything Mary and Joseph did in the Presentation was done according to the Law of the Lord. This sets the example for all of us. God has revealed to us many times in Scripture and through the Church that marriage is between one man and one woman.

All of the sad and tragic attempts to change this truth are diametrically opposed to Law of the Lord. It must be made clear that because this is an area of divine law no one, not even a Pope, has the authority to change it. If the Church gave us a law, the Church can also change that law. But when God gives a law, no one can change it.

Anyway, since the union of the couple is marriage is one of love, it will overflow the boundaries of the two and become life giving for others. Clearly, only the complementary relationship of a man and a woman is able to provide for this regarding giving life to children. I realize that there are other ways that people are conceiving these days, but remember that marriage is a union of love and love is never selfish nor does it wrong the neighbor. Every means of conceiving a child outside of the marital union is both selfish and sinful, therefore, they are not acts of love. A child, being a person made in the image and likeness of God, should be the product of love. Anything less is a violation of both the parents and the child.

If we go back to the Garden, there we see what marriage is supposed to be. We also see that the punishment for Original Sin was, in part, that the relationships between men and women would be damaged. For this reason, God shows us what our human relationships are supposed to look like. We see in the second reading the proper ordering of the marital relationship and we see in both the first and second readings the proper ordering of the relationships between parents and children.

This provides a framework for us to overcome the effects of Original Sin. By the grace obtained for us by our Lord, we have the ability to live as we were intended to live. This is not easy, but brings fulfillment. In this way we see that marriage provides the means of the restoration of creation the way God intended it to be. The family built on such a foundation is the perfect place for the raising of Saints, people who are seeking to live in conformity with God’s will.

The teachings regarding marriage and family are among those most often rejected in our society today. Each of us has to ask if we are willing to live according to God’s revealed truth. This is going to bring a lot of ridicule and rejection, but it will also bring with it a strengthening of our faith.

The wonderful thing is that the truth is objective and not just our own opinion. Everything else is opinion and most often based on emotions. The truth is freedom. I had a pastor who liked to say when speaking of the truth: when you know you’re right, you know you can’t be wrong. Live your family life according to God’s truth and you will know the joy, the freedom and the fulfillment of being a holy family.

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