Central idea: God dwells in the family. Doctrine: The domestic church of the Holy Family. Practical application: Making the family more a domestic church.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
To view Lectionary 17, click here.
Central idea: God dwells in the family
Reading 1 Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3
The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying:
“Fear not, Abram!
I am your shield;
I will make your reward very great.”
But Abram said,
“O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be,
if I keep on being childless
and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?”
“See, you have given me no offspring,
and so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Then the word of the LORD came to him:
“No, that one shall not be your heir;
your own issue shall be your heir.”
The Lord took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would;
he did for her as he had promised.
Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age,
at the set time that God had stated.
Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his
whom Sarah bore him.
- Marriage is the natural human vocation and so most people have a natural desire for marriage and children.
- Abraham and Sarah desired a child, a desire which was frustrated.
- It was doubly frustrating because of the special vocation God gave him and the promises attached to it: through their progeny, which would be countless, every nation on earth would be blessed.
- Abraham put his faith in God’s promise and the impossible occurred: Sarah conceived and bore Isaac.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
constantly seek his face.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations
which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
- By the time of David, Abraham’s offspring had become a nation. God was true to his promises.
- Even though the Jews were God’s chosen ones, his particular people, there was within Judaism a universal dimension: “Throughout the earth [God’s] judgments prevail” and God’s deeds were to be made known “among the nations.”
- So, the “hearts that seek the LORD” were not confined to only the chosen people, the children of Abraham. This world-wide dimension came to fruition with the arrival of the Son of God as savior of the world and his commission to his Church to make disciples of all nations.
Reading 2 Col 3:12-17
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- The virtues which St. Paul commends to the Colossians pertain to every Christian family.
- The mission of the family is to love, and love integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction.
Gospel Lk 2:22-40
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
- Joseph and Mary recognized the just demand of God by going up to Jerusalem for the Presentation, just as they had recognized the just demand of Caesar in traveling to Bethlehem for the census.
- At the same time, this family of slender financial means also completely fulfilled the Mosaic ordinance: Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord. There never was before, or ever would be after, a first-born son who was as dedicated to God the Father, because this first-born son was also God the Son.
- Simeon says that in beholding this child he is beholding “salvation.”
- This savior glorifies the nation of Israel, because as Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman, “salvation comes from the Jews” (Jn 4:22).
- Simeon also says to the child’s mother that she will share in his saving work: “you yourself a sword will pierce.” She accomplished this in accompanying her son during his passion.
Doctrine: The Domestic Church of the Holy Family
- Just as at one time the entire Chosen People consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac—at one time the entire Church consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
- The Church, therefore, began its life in the home of Joseph and Mary.
- “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” (CCC 1666)
- The virtues which St. Paul commends to the Colossians—love which integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction—were lived out by the Holy Family, even forgiveness.
- The members of the Holy Family had opportunities to forgive their neighbors, since living in a community they would have encountered disrespect, violence, impurity, greed, and dishonesty. When that “sword” pierced her heart, the Blessed Virgin Mary had a special opportunity to forgive because of what they did to her son. And of course her son had that mission to forgive every sin.
- Within the Holy Family, there was no need for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to forgive one another due to sin. Even so, it is possible there were misunderstandings that led to pain, as when Joseph learned that Mary was with child or when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days.
Practical application: Making the family more a domestic church
- As the Catechism points out, every Christian family is already a domestic Church. Marriage and the family is the arena in which spouses can learn to love and can teach the Gospel, live charity, and train their children in virtue.
- In your family, is the faith proclaimed to your children by word and deed?
- Have your children ever heard you utter the word Jesus in your home?
- Do they hear you speak of God and the Gospel?
- Do they see over time that being a Catholic means you live differently?
- Is your home a community of grace?
- Objectively, you have the graces of Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage, but are they stopped up by not keeping the Sunday obligation or by reception of the Holy Eucharist unworthily? Is your home being poisoned by contraception?
- Is it a community of prayer? We are to teach our children to have a relationship with God through a life of prayer so they can eventually discern their vocations.
- Do you offer your day to God and have you taught your children how to do this?
- Do you say grace before meals?
- Is there any other family prayer you practice together?
- Is your home a school of human virtues?
- Do you and your spouse try to live, model, and train your children in the love which integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction?
- Is it a place where freedom is cultivated?
- Young children can be forced to do what you want when you are standing over them, but will they want to do what is right when you are not watching them or when they leave home?
- Is it a school of Christian charity?
- Charity is willing the very best for the other even to the point of sacrifice. In the domestic church and in the Christian life in general, love takes the shape “of service, sacrifice, trust, and openness to God’s generosity” (50).[*]
The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the the Holy Family:
- CCC 531-534: the Holy Family
- CCC 1655-1658, 2204-2206: the Christian family, a domestic Church
- CCC 2214-2233: duties of family members
- CCC 529, 583, 695: the Presentation in the Temple
- CCC 144-146, 165, 489, 2572, 2676: Abraham and Sarah as models of faith
[*] “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families in 2015.