Welcome God into your home

By Bishop Robert Morneau | December 23, 2013

It is a waste of time to idealize family life. Parents and children struggle with human nature with its jealousy, self-assertiveness and all those selfish instincts that tend to govern our lives. The challenge is always to seek God’s assistance in facing our sinful tendencies.

St. Paul could have been a family counselor. At least he knew what was necessary in building the community of the family. We are familiar with the list of qualities that make family life happy and holy: heartfelt compassion, mutual forgiveness, patience, gentleness, humility and, most of all, love. There is one more virtue that he includes: bearing with one another. So easily we can get fed-up with our own weakness and that of others. So easily we can become critical and bitter as we live in close quarters. Much grace is needed if we are to experience the peace that God wills for all communities.

Sirach also offers some sage advice to families. Honor is at the top of the list. The effects of reverencing one’s father and mother (and parents their children) are: atonement of sins, effective prayers, delight and comfort, a long life. Sirach, like the realistic St. Paul, stresses that hard times will come and our honor will be tested. One in particular we are all familiar with: when the mind of a parent fails. Many of us have had to deal with relatives with Alzheimer’s. We must redouble our efforts and prayers, so that our honor and reverence might deepen.

The Gospel presents a case study of family life. The Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is facing an issue of life and death. Herod is searching out the child Jesus in order to destroy any threat to Herod’s power. The family is in flight, heading to a distant country where all is strange and unknown. The anxiety and tension must have been extreme. And then, upon the death of Herod, another ruler, Archelaus by name, brought fear into the heart of Joseph. To avoid this new danger, Joseph took the family into the region of Galilee.

Family life is no picnic. There are struggles and tensions, fears and anxieties, pain and suffering. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus comes to strengthen us in all of our relationships.

Questions for reflection

1. How have you been an agent of honor in your family system?

2. What advice would you give to a newly married couple regarding family life?

3. Why is it so dangerous to romanticize family life?

Bishop Morneau is auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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