Deacon Cornellís Homily


Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
1 John 3:1-2,21-24
Luke 2:41-52


December 27-28, 2003, Feast of the Holy Family Cycle C

As we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family, the family is under attack. I am not talking just about the last few months but the last few decades. The family has been under attack from such forces on the global front as war and genocide, mass migrations, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, to less violent but just as deadly forces in our own culture: a false understanding of freedom, the sexual revolution, a consumerism which encourages both parents working outside the home, the death, or at least the mortal wounding, of respect and authority, and, of course the recent efforts to redefine marriage.

What does this story of Jesus in the Temple, as well as our other readings, offer us in our efforts to sustain and build up the family? I would suggest that the most important thing it offers is the importance of family in Godís plan. Even though Jesus exhibits understanding and wisdom beyond that of a normal twelve year old, he still needs a family in order to grow to the fullness of his wisdom and age and grace. Jesus acknowledges the wisdom of the words from Sirach we just heard, revering not only his heavenly father, but Joseph as well. Even as an adult, Jesus honors his motherís authority over him in the story at Cana that we will hear in mid January.

Over the past few weeks, we have been encouraging all to become active in the public debate over the redefinition of marriage. If we are to do effectively, we must spend the time and effort to educate ourselves. Iíd like to reflect on two aspects of this debate, both triggered by arguments used by those who favor this redefinition.

The first is the argument that redefining marriage to include same sex unions does not hurt anyone. To respond with biblical references is not effective because many on either side of the debate do not look at the Bible as truth. But truth is truth, and if Godís word in the Bible is truth then we should be able to see this truth using other ways of looking at the world. We see from todayís story that the truth is that the ideal environment for a childís growth is a family that consists of a father and a mother and the child. Why else would Joseph have been brought into the Holy Family? Sure enough, social science has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that this is true, not just for the child but for the parents. Whether we look at the damage done to children and our society as a whole by the millions of children raised in a home without an active father, or the results of study after study of the wealth, and health, and psychological well being advantage that children of homes with a married mother and father, the truth revealed in Lukeís story is confirmed. To redefine marriage to include same sex couples teaches that the sex of parents is not important. That is simply not true.

Another argument in favor of redefining marriage points to the dismal record of success our society has with marriages between a man and a woman. A rather interesting argument: since marriage is not working why not promote something known to be detrimental to it. But while this may be flawed logic, I would suggest that this argument should be a whack on the side of our heads.

How is it that the failure rate of Catholic marriages is the same as that of all marriages?† As with any human issue, there is no simple answer but I suggest that one contributing factor is that as a community we are not doing all we can to ensure that marriages not only survive but that they flourish. I donít have any quick solution to this but I hope we can do something about this if we put our wills to it.

On the parish level, we are planning a new approach to religious formation that directly addresses families. This should help to strengthen marriages. But what can we do on an individual level? Prayer. Pray for marriages on a daily basis. Pray for the marriages of your friends, your neighbors, your children, your parents, and your co-workers. In praying this way, become more and more aware of the responsibility we have for the health and vitality of other marriages.

And, of course, pray for your own marriage.

I would suggest that you have a marvelous prayer book for marriage and family right in every home. In the second reading, John tells us that when we finally see God as God really is, in heaven, we will become like God. But we donít have to wait until we go to heaven in order to start this transformation. Where can we see God as God really is? Right in those books and boxes and now gigabytes of family photos. Take those photos out and start looking at them as a family. Pray over those images that you might see the face of God in the ordinary and extraordinary events of family life. For the more we see the face of God, the more we are transformed into the image of God that is so important in marriage and family, a God who is a community of persons defined in love.

How much more effective we will be in this debate if, instead of just using skillful rhetoric to show up the flaws in the arguments for redefining marriage, we attract support for marriage by living truth that reveals the face of God as God really is.

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