During this Christmas season, a parishioner was showing me a box full of ornaments that holds much sentimental value. The box came from her parents who are now deceased. Some of the ornaments were given to her parents more than 60 years ago. Some of the ornaments are store-bought and some are hand-made by the parishioner and her siblings while they were children. As the story goes, one year their parents bought a tree far larger than the previous year’s tree, and when they decorated the tree there were not enough ornaments for this larger tree. Instead of buying more ornaments, the parents told their children to make their own ornaments to fill in the gaps. Thankfully, these precious family memorabilia have not been thrown away. On the box in which these ornaments are stored reads a short poem,
Let there be the perfect tree,
Carols to sing, slightly off key.
A family joined in easy laughter.
And instant replay ever after.
Today in the Gospel, we reflect on the memories of parents of Jesus when 40 days after his birth, they took him to the Jerusalem temple to perform the ritual of purification. Joseph and Mary desired to consecrate their son to the Lord. At the temple they encountered Simeon and Anna who spoke of the child’s future as well as future sufferings for his mother.
First we need to ask, do we need holiness in our children? In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul talks about what virtues we see in a holy person--a person who puts on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience...ready to forgive, ready to bear wrongs and grievances of others. Imagine if our family did not have these virtues.
Second, how do we foster holiness in our children? Here is what not to do. This past week at the local prison penance service, several inmates shed tears when they talked about their children, how they wished they could have set a better example for them and not leave them without their father at home. They were sorry for letting their children see failure in their role as a loving father and husband. While this is alarming to us, one does not have to be in prison to be absent from their children or be a bad role model.
The best teachers of holiness are the parents. In fact at baptism, parents promise to accept the responsibility to train their children in the practice of faith, to teach them to keep God’s commandments by loving God and our neighbor. At school reconciliation service, we priests hear children say to us, “I’m sorry for not coming to Sunday mass. I couldn’t come because my parents would not bring me.” If we look at our own families, we know there are obstacles to love. Our home may not always be a place of harmony and complete understanding. Yet, the call for us to be a holy family like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus means that we must strive to put on love as St. Paul instructs us in the Second Reading. We must show our children heartfelt compassion. Teach them by example what it means to be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Show them that when someone wrongs us, how to forgive and bear the wrongs. Let them see what having the peace of Christ looks like in your life.
Blessed Mother has this instruction for all of our families:
“Dear children! Today in a special way I bring the little Jesus to you, that He may bless you with His blessing of peace and love. Dear children, do not forget that this is a grace which many people neither understand nor accept. Therefore, you who have said that you are mine, and seek my help, give all of yourself. First of all, give your love and example in your families. You say that Christmas is a family feast. Therefore, dear children, put God in the first place in your families, so that He may give you peace and may protect you.”
As Blessed Mother asked us, and as the new year begins, what can you do as a family to put God at the center of your family so that the whole family may strive to be holy?