HOMILY – FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Christmas is a special and memorable time for children. Santa Claus, bells and reindeer, trees and lights, bows and ribbons, and of course the baby Jesus capture the imagination. This child, born to poor parents, birthed in a stable, laid in a manger, watched over by angels, stars, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and even sheep on the hill is adored and cherished.
For children Christmas is a never forgotten magical season, and for us, a time to remember this Child’s message. For this child, we know, is special. But this specialness brings with it the uncomfortable reminder of other children not so loved and cherished. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy family, and although we know little of Jesus’ childhood and family life, we know from the bible that Jesus was loved and cherished, and his presence in our midst reminds us of the millions of unloved and uncherished children who suffer so terribly.
This Christmas parents worried about how safe the toys were they placed under the Christmas tree. In shock and amazement we all heard of millions of toxic toys being recalled from store shelves. For many, hopefully, it was a wakeup call to the plight of millions of children in our modern world.
In our own Country children suffer because of materialism, drug abuse, greed, poverty, neglect, ignorance, marital break-up, etc. etc.. And around the world millions of children suffer for a host of similar reasons, including war, poverty, racism, bigotry, ignorance, and religious – ethnic persecution In some countries children are raised for the sex trade, forced to work in factories almost from infancy, denied education, and placed in the front lines of the battles of war.
Perhaps never in our lives have we had to live with the knowledge of so much violence to children: children beaten, children abandoned, children violated, children unwanted, children starving, children murdered, Children burned, children mutilated, children orphaned — children forgotten, ignored, used, and abused. We wince at the very thought of it. We turn away, turn the dial, and turn the conversation in other directions. It is simply too much to think about, too much to deal with.
But why the urge to turn away? Why the horror? Why the anger? Why the revulsion? After all, people are being exploited, beaten, killed, raped and murdered everywhere. Children are just one more class of the same degradation. So what’s the difference?
The difference is the future – Our future. Children in our own land, the innocents of our own country are being sacrificed by the breakdown in medical and mental health systems, by the permissiveness of our society, by our greed for material goods and pleasure, by the toxicity level of the environment, by the violence we take for granted, and by the refusal of many to live in justice and love of neighbor. Every child who suffers costs us another piece of hope in the future. Every child we lose marks the loss of a piece of our own life, and our children’s lives.
Maybe that is why Jesus came as a child: to remind us that what we do not care for from infancy will rob us of the future we seek, and it will rob us of its intelligence, its creativity, its joy, its sense of possibility, its promise. Let us resolve this New Year to take even more seriously our responsibility to our own children and the children of the world for this is one inspiration that comes from the crib of Jesus and reminds us of his adult plea to let the little children come to him.
Christmas, the birth of Jesus, tells us that every child born is another chance to save the future, to make it better, to bring it joy. No doubt about it, the birth of Jesus and the feast of the Holy Family is a reminder and call to all of us to care for the innocent, to protect the defenseless, and to recognize all children in the infant Jesus who loves and saves, and commands us to do the same.
Adapted from the Christmas Message of Sr. Joan Chittister – email message to subscribers of benetvision.org