A Graduate School of Theology and Ministry

The Feast of the Holy Family

December 27, 2022

Lectionary 17:

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Col 3:12-17 

Luke 2:22-40

 

Possible preaching themes

  • The nature of attachment theory, especially between parents and children.
  • The power of adoption and the nature of stepparenting.

 

Possible scientific resources.

  1. On attachment theory and family bounds
    1. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-attachment-theory-2795337
    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0sKY86Qmzo
    3. https://www.britannica.com/science/attachment-theory/Individual-difference-features-of-attachment-theory .
  2. The process of stepparenting
    1. The psychology of adoption https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/adoption
    2. The hidden impact of adoption https://www.family-institute.org/behavioral-health-resources/hidden-impact-adoption
    3. parenting after adoption https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/adopt-parenting/ .

 

 

Homily outline on parenting and family bonds

 

  • The concept of family goes beyond blood:
    • Experiences of adoption and foster parenting demonstrate that it is about establishing bonds and relationships.
    • It is what Vatican II calls the “domestic church” (Lumen Gentium, 11).

 

  • The feast of the Holy Family provides opportunities to talk about the importance of parenting in all of its diverse forms, e.g., stepparents, foster parents, etc.
    • Mary
      • She is a well-developed figure in the Catholic imagination as Mother of the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
      • She is celebrated for her remarkable and wholehearted commitment to God’s plan for our salvation in Christ.
      • The fiat of Mary is the reference of our own Fiat to God’s will.
      • Without doubt Mary shaped the life and mission of Jesus.
    • Joseph
      • A more hidden figure but very important in God’s salvation plan
      • Like Mary visited by Gabriel, he was also visited by an angel confirming that he too was chosen by God
      • The archangel Gabriel appears to Joseph as well
      • Joseph was also faithful to God’s plan
      • As his protector and head of the household he also undoubtedly shaped the life of Jesus.
      • In December 2021, Pope Francis proclaimed a year dedicated to Saint Joseph: “St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all,” https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html .

 

  • Parenting can be stressful
    • Even in nuclear families with biological offspring, parenting is challenging.
    • Psychologists even recognize the category of “parenting stress”:
    • In single parent families, or families with adopted or foster children, that stress can be higher.
    • While attachment is a normal expectation between parents and children
    • The Christmas season can be a particular time for family stress https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/dec/20/festive-stress-why-the-christmas-season-can-be-anything-but-merry .
      • Because of workloads and time demands
      • Family estrangement
      • Financial restraints
      • Expectations around gifts, especially by children.
    • The Holy Family was not a stress-free family:
      • Mary was pregnant by a mysterious source.
      • Joseph considered divorcing her.
      • They had to make a long trip to Bethlehem while Mary was in the late stages of her pregnancy.
      • The life of their newborn was threatened by King Herod.
      • The young family had to flee to Egypt.
      • They even “lost” Jesus in the Temple on a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
      • Pope Francis noted: In the Gospel, we see that even in the Holy Family things did not all go well: There were unexpected problems, anxiety, suffering. The Holy Family of holy cards does not exist,” https://www.ncronline.org/news/theology/francis-chronicles/even-holy-family-felt-stress-pope-tells-families .

 

  • Grace and generosity in the midst of imperfection:
    • The image of a perfect family is a myth and actually can be destructive https://www.mentalhelp.net/relationships/the-perfect-family/ .
    • The grace of the “domestic church” is not the grace of a flawless family unit
      • rather it is the grace of God’s presence in every family despite its flaws.
    • The Holy Family provides an image of family diversity:
      • A husband and wife who never consummated their marriage bond
      • A son with no biological father
      • A stepfather and stepson
      • The death of the stepfather at some stage, leaving Mary a widow.
    • Each family is its own configuration of grace.
      • The mission is to find the grace in the imperfections
      • To embrace the beauty and the flaws that make each family distinctive.
    • Families with adopted children or foster children, households with grandparents or other configurations of “extended families”
      • Are distinctive images of God’s own generosity.
      • Jesus himself understood that his “mother and brothers” are the people who do God’s will (Mark 3:31-5).
    • In a similar way, each family is invited in the image of the Holy Family similarly to open themselves to such inclusiveness and generosity
      • According to their own means and circumstances
      • Doing so can enhance the grace and growth of the nuclear family itself.

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