Imagine what it would be like if we were abandoned at birth. We would have no identity. We would not know who we belong to. We would have no means of support. This happens in other countries when children are taken from their parents at birth, and end up in orphanages where there are 2000-3000 children.
We have been given a last name to indicate the family to which we belong. Each of us also has a first name to indicate our uniqueness. Each of us is a unique and unrepeatable human being. There has never been anyone exactly like us and never will be. God recognizes the authority of the parents to name a child, and our name is a great gift. It gives us a sense of belonging and acceptance.
God intended that we be born lovingly in a family with a mother and a father. We hear the Commandment –“honor your mother and father.” We have learned that this means that you obey your parents, but it goes deeper than that. It means that every child has the right to an honorable mother and a father. By “honorable.” we mean but they honor their obligation as parents. In our Gospel reading today, we hear how Mary and Joseph followed the dictates of the law. They presented Jesus at the temple. Mary and Joseph were honorable parents, and note that that there is no limitation of the age of 18 in the Bible. We are called to honor our parents all of our lives, as they honor us - not just until we are eighteen.
As we come to Mass, we represent our ancestors - those who have gone before us. None of us are here on our own, so we recognize the sacrifices that they have made. My grandparents all met in Sicily. My grandparents on my father's side, were married at St. Leo's in 1911. My father was born in 1918, and he served in World War II. He received two purple hearts. I am aware of the sacrifices that my mother and father made for me.
As a father, I found it difficult to be a parent. It is challenging to be a serious parent. Every night we would have dinner together, and we would share the scripture of the day. We would also share what had happened that day.
There is opportunity for miscommunication. This can lead to tension and even estrangement within the family. After to 14 years two members of my extended family did not speak to each other. Then one day during a family gathering, one of them said “so how have you been?” and the other answered “I've been fine how have you been?” Suddenly this 14 year period came to an end. They began to talk. It was so easy but it seems so hard. It is our job as members of the family to reconcile with one another. It is important that we let go of the details as to who is right and who is wrong and be interested in peace and reconciliation. This is not easy to do. One of the hardest things I had to do as a father was to ask forgiveness from my children. I continue to do that.
The second reading today from Colossians gives us the ingredients of a family: “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.”
The power of the Holy Spirit can bring about reconciliation and healing. We pray for our families daily making sure that there are no barriers or walls that can easily rise up between us. We guard our families with prayer. Even in very grievous circumstances, Christ is capable of healing us.
So today we can be thankful for the blessings that God has provided through our family. Happy New Year! And may this be a time of healing and growth.