Pastoral Sharings: Feast of the Holy Family

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of the Holy Family
Posted for December 27, 2015

Today in our Gospel reading we hear a lovely story from the hidden life of Jesus as a boy. It is about his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve years old, how he got lost on the return journey and how his parents eventually found him discussing the scriptures with the doctors in the Temple.

This is an example of the kind of literature we call ‘seeing the man in the boy’. Through this story about the boy Jesus we get an insight into the kind of man he was eventually going to turn out to be. We observe from his discussions in the Temple at such a young age that Jesus is destined to become a great teacher of his people and an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is a very human story and one that we can all easily identify with. It is even a bit embarrassing for Mary and Joseph who failed to notice that Jesus was missing from the caravan. We can understand their deep anxiety at not finding him for three days. This is something that every parent dreads, hearing as we do from time to time on the news about missing children and their sometimes extremely gruesome fate.

I suppose that in those days Palestine was a more trusting place than the huge cities of today. Nowadays we have to be constantly on our guard against disturbed and dangerous persons and we need strong locks on our doors and even at great inconvenience we drive our children everywhere to avoid them walking on their own in the streets.

But in those days Palestine had a relatively small population living mostly in rural areas and it was probably much safer. The population of Jerusalem, its largest city, is estimated by some at only about 40,000 people which would make it the size of a reasonable sized town in Britain today, Inverness for example.

Nevertheless, Mary and Joseph would have been desperately worried. Besides their natural concern for the son they deeply loved you have also to take into account their awareness of the fact that God had entrusted this child to them born to be the Savior of the World. That’s a pretty awesome responsibility and whether they said anything about it or not they must have been deeply anxious.

The boy Jesus is, of course, quite unconcerned. He is in the most natural place of all, in the Temple of Jerusalem. As the Son of God he would surely regard the Temple as his true home on earth.

And what is he doing? He is discussing the scriptures with the Doctors of the Law and, at his young age, showing remarkable insight and wisdom; so much so that he astounded them all with his intelligence and perception.

Prodigy or not, his parents scold him for the anxiety he caused them. Of course, the precocious child tells them that they should have known he was about his father’s business. But he submits to their authority and meekly returns home to live his life with them in Nazareth where he was to grow into maturity as an adult.

So although our tendency is to think of the Holy Family as some sort of idealized family unit we must realize that its members faced the same pressures as we do. They went through the same crises and had the same worries as we ourselves. This story of a lost child helps us to realize that their family was not so different from our own family.

As we celebrate this beautiful feast we must ask ourselves about our own family groupings. We must ask ourselves if we as individuals are pulling our weight in the family or whether we are expecting others to take up the slack.

Sometimes we are not very good at showing affection to each other. Frequently we let our tempers get out of hand. Often enough we find ourselves giving in to selfishness and failing to treat the members of our own families with the respect that we should.

It is good that this Feast of the Holy Family comes right after Christmas which is, after all, the most family oriented feast of all. We give presents and gifts at Christmas but perhaps it is only on this Feast of the Holy Family that we come to realize that there are many other things that we fail to give to our loved ones.

So often in the family we want the other members to understand our moods and give us a bit of slack from time to time. Yet we fail to do this very thing ourselves. We frequently neglect to appreciate the mood swings that others experience, we often take them for granted and don’t make any allowances for their feelings and difficulties.

Maybe what we all need is to show a bit more patience, a bit more forgiveness, a bit more understanding. If we do these things then our homes will become warmer and friendlier and more nourishing for us all.

The Church throughout its history has constantly proclaimed the value of the family as the basic unit of our society. It promotes, perhaps today more than ever, the need for united traditional families. In these days of family splits and breakdowns it remains ever more vital to uphold the values of family life.

However, we should not take its defense of the traditional family to think that the Church looks down on people belonging to families which have split up and reconfigured in unorthodox ways. This would be an error because the Church values each human person and defends all families whatever their circumstances or however they are formed.

The basic family bond is a bond of love and the Church promotes love above everything else. The Holy Family themselves could hardly be described as fitting the mold of a traditional family. So those whose families which don’t meet traditional expectations should not worry overmuch.

The Church speaks up for the family and it is right that it does so. It proclaims the traditional values of love and honor and respect around which our families can build their lives. The Church believes that a strong upbringing in a good family is the best thing that can provide a sound basis for a solid and honorable adulthood. So let us hope and pray that our society does what it can to uphold the values that will enable families to truly flourish in the modern world.

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a blessed and a very Merry Christmas! I pray that the coming of the Infant Savior Jesus will fill your hearts with His peace, joy, and love.


Here is some beautiful music that will warm your heart and nourish your soul:


The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph: The Christian Family

The Church places the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday after Christmas to help us focus in on Jesus’ early life.  Mary and Joseph had the authority of parents over him and he listened to them, though, as today’s Gospel relates, Jesus’ true father was the Eternal Father in heaven.  We read in scripture that Joseph took leadership in the family, even getting them up in the middle of the night to flee to Egypt.  We know that Mary cared for her child because he needed her to grow into the man the Eternal Father sent the Word to the earth to become.  We know that Mary was present for her Son throughout his life, supporting him even as her Son was dying on the cross.  We are certain that this family was indeed holy, separate for the Lord.


Feast of the Holy Family

Luke 2:41-52
Gospel Summary

At the end of Luke’s Infancy Narrative, we find a story that does not really pertain to his infancy, since he is already twelve years old when he visits the temple with his parents on the occasion of the Passover feast. He is there because he has now reached the age of “maturity” and must therefore join the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the major feasts.


Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Year C—December 27, 2015

Today, the Church gives us an episode from Jesus’ early family life to ponder.  Why?

Gospel (Read Lk 2:41-52)

After the profusion of Scriptures describing Jesus’ Nativity in this liturgical season of Christmas, we might be tempted to think we now know enough about His birth into a special family.  However, today the Church reminds us of something most of us spend little time thinking about:  Jesus wasn’t simply born into a human family; He grew up and lived the bulk of His life in that family.  As the Catechism tells us, “During the greater part of His life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings:  a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor” (531).  What was that life like?  Our Gospel reading gives us some clues.


God is With Us, So Do Not Be Afraid

Whew! Have you encountered the shopping mall, main street and the Christmas rush?

There is a kind of panicked grasping after material happiness. Not only do we want to pack the tree with goodies, we want to pack our stomachs with feasting and pack our homes with family happiness.

It’s all wonderful and far be it from me from to be a Scrooge, but beneath it all there sometimes lurks a deep unhappiness that we are trying desperately to fill.

What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?


Christ: The Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is such a beautiful time of year. Family, friends, and neighbors are welcomed into our homes with loving arms as we anticipate the birth of Christ. He is the reason for the season, and we need to be sure to celebrate his birth appropriately. Unfortunately, many of us Christians are only concerned with the material side of Christmas. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of sales and deadlines and so forget why this month is so important.

Ways to Celebrate:


You’re Invited: To Become a Christmas Child… Again

This month, the editors asked me to write about my favorite Christmas ever. I thought quite a bit about that. I could have gone with the Christmas that I got the toy I wanted (1979), my first Christmas as a husband (1992), or my first Christmas as a father (1993). But I’m going with the Christmas of 1970. I was five days old.

I was a Christmas baby. Even to this day, when my mother sees a picture or a video of me as an infant, she often comments (as though she were reporting the news for the first time) that the nurses at the hospital put a little Santa cap on my head when I was going home.


Celebrate the Mother to Prepare for and

Welcome the Child

As we get ready to welcome Jesus at Christmas, we also take the time to celebrate his mother and prepare with her. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s intense and joyful waiting for her child to enter the world is a model for all who desire the fullness of Christ’s presence in their lives.

In an Angelus address, St. John Paul II called Mary the “Virgin of Advent.” And in 2013, Pope Francis said, “Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent season in expectation of the Lord.”

“The heart of that connection between Advent and Christmas is Mary,” explains Peter Howard, a professor at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation ( and a Marian expert.


Water From the Rock

Sometime around, oh, 3300 years ago, Moses leaned out from Mt. Nebo in Jordan – as I just did a few days ago – and looked over into the Promised Land. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI made a point of going there as well. Because from that commanding height, the panorama of subsequent religious history, a history we still remember as no other, is spread out: from the Dead Sea in the South to the Sea of Galilee in the North, with Jericho in the center (a city in Moses’ day already 8000 years old), and just beyond, Jerusalem.

Poor Moses. He faced down Pharaoh, kept the stiff-necked Israelites together (more or less) for forty years in the desert, and even came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. But was forbidden to go any farther. He died and was buried, somewhere unknown, on Mt. Nebo.


A Christmas Hero: John Bruchalski, MD

I read a story this week about a doctor who changed his attitude toward abortion some years ago. His name is very familiar to those of us who are residents of Northern Virginia: John Bruchalski, MD. He is the founder of the Tepeyac Family Center. This change of heart wound up changing his entire life—and the lives of countless others.

His story reminded me in many ways of other physicians who made the transition from being an abortionist to being a committed pro-life physician. Names like Bernard Nathanson, MD and Beverly McMillan, MD come to mind.


The Year of Mercy and the Gospel of Life

On April 11, 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in Misericordiae vultus. When one thinks of mercy, particularly in the context of our Catholic faith, forgiveness and the Sacrament of Confession come to mind. Something deeper, however, is going on. At its core, this Jubilee Year of Mercy focuses us on restoring our dignity as sons and daughters of God; it is intimately connected with the Gospel of Life and its call for a greater respect and defense of human dignity.


Just Wait. Because Waiting Makes It More Fun

We don’t wait well. Every year people like me complain about the world treating December as if it were Christmas, and look censoriously on the Christians who should know better but still belt out “Silent Night” starting in late November. And we’re right to do so. My wife, though a woman of many virtues, would have the tree decorated and the lights shining on Thanksgiving day, and the heck with the church year, were she not blessed to be married to a calendaric rigorist.

I write suffering my annual mid-Advent fit of grumpiness, having spent time with a friend who said “Merrrrrry Christmas!” to everyone and having found myself several times sitting at my computer singing Christmas carols because I’d heard them in the grocery store. It makes me grumpy, our culture’s disregard of Advent, though I probably should admit that I enjoy feeling righteously grumpy.


Why Does Pope Francis Love the Blessed Virgin Mary So Much?

Time magazine recently published an article titled, “Why Pope Francis Is Obsessed With Mary.” One of the reasons the magazine gave for describing Pope Francis as having an obsession with Our Lady was the fact that he prays the Rosary three times a day. Time is correct in observing that the Holy Father does have a personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but this is not an obsession; it is better described as a very deep love.


Christmas Isn’t Candy Canes—It’s D-Day in the War Against Satan

I, like you, love the beautiful Christmas season with all its sentimental appeal. And I wish you all of this in abundance. But as we know, the first Christmas was anything but sentimental and featured great hardships: Urgent travel to Bethlehem in the ninth month of pregnancy, no room at the inn, the subsequent flight to Egypt and the murder of the Holy Innocents. It is almost as though Satan, knowing that God was up to something good,

tried to smoke out, prevent and pursue and destroy this great work of God.

And this is exactly what Scripture attests in a version of the Christmas story seldom told among Christians today. Consider the “other” Christmas story that looks behind the external events and interprets the deeper meaning of them:


2015 Catholics of the Year

In a year that brought abundant joy as well as abundant sorrow, Catholics in the United States and around the world continued to witness the mercy and love of God.

While the past 12 months saw considerable violence — in South Carolina and California, in Paris and throughout the Middle East and Africa — 2015 also was a year of celebration, as the cities of Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia welcomed Pope Francis during his first visit to the U.S. This joyous visit culminated in hundreds of thousands of Catholics worshipping together on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia as the Holy Father celebrated the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families.


Our shocking part in God’s plan

This time of year we hear a lot about Mary’s role in our redemption. Between the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the general discussion about the coming of Christmas, the story of the Annunciation is repeated quite a few times.

Of course, there’s a lot to chew on when we consider the scene between the angel and the Blessed Mother.  It’s important to remember that our Blessed Mother said yes to God’s mission with free will.  Love is not forced or coerced.  It is only given in freedom.  Mary, like Eve, made her choice in complete freedom.  For many years, when I was reminded of this, I often thought about “what if” she would have said no. Now I think more about the fact that God asked at all.


Bl. Mother Teresa to Be Canonized After Pope Approves Miracle, Say Reports

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta looks set to be canonized in 2016 after Pope Francis reportedly signed a decree this evening recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession.

The news was reported by Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, on Thursday evening, the day of the Pope’s 79th birthday.


True Contrition and True Mercy

I am totally one hundred percent in favor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

I do worry, however, that in our society the idea of mercy is weakened by our lack of understanding about sin and repentance.

When we hear “Mercy” we too often think, “Oh, that just means that nasty old Catholic Church has decided to go easy on everybody for a bit.”

Errrm. Not really.

How Can I Grow in Virtue? (Part I of II)

Dear Father John, I am trying to be a better person but I need a little help.  I know virtues are important, but I don’t know how to get better at them.  How can I become more virtuous?

Growth in virtue requires exercising virtue. It sounds so simple. And it is. Human nature is made this way. When we nourish and use the powers of our soul properly, they grow, just like muscles. If a young man wants to improve his tennis game, he needs to keep playing tennis; he needs to exercise his skills and abilities so they develop. Just thinking and dreaming about it will get him nowhere. Likewise, if we want to mature in our love for God, if we want to grow in the virtues that unite our heart, mind, emotions, and will to the Lord so we can have deeper communion with him, then we need to nourish and exercise them. And only in that communion will we find lasting happiness.

5th Corporal Work of Mercy : “Visit the Sick”

While preparing an article for the next corporal work of mercy (visiting the sick), I immediately thought of one pope who highlighted this practice during his pontificate. That pope was St. John Paul II, who throughout his life emphasized the habit of “visiting the sick.” He is an inspiration to me and challenges us all to renew our own efforts in performing this work of mercy.

John Paul II – Friend of the Sick:


Religion Equals Happiness

On average, people of faith lead more fulfilling family lives.

It’s a message we hear more and more: Religion is bad.

And certainly recent headlines — from terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris and San Bernardino to the strange brew of warped Christian fundamentalism that appeared to motivate alleged shooter Robert Dear at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs — feeds the idea that religion is a force for ill in the world. But in “The End of Faith:

Religion,   Terror, and the Future of Reason,” Sam Harris not only asserts that the “greatest problem confronting civilization” is religious extremism, he further waxes that it’s also “the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.”


Can Atheists Be Good Without Belief in God?

One of the most passionately held beliefs among atheists and agnostics is that they can be morally good without belief in God. The underlying assumption is that God is not relevant to morality. But is this true? Can one be good without acknowledging God’s existence? 


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