Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P.
Feast of the Holy Family (A) Three Building Blocks to a Great Family Life
On of the things I like to do is collect quotes. And today being the feast of the Holy Family, I would like to share a few quotes I came across about family life.
“We worry about what a child will be tomorrow and forget that he or she is someone today. -- Stacia Tauscher
“Few things are more delightful than having grandchildren fight over your lap.” -- Doug Larson
“Adolescence is nature’s way of helping parents welcome the empty nest.” -- Karen Savage and Patricia Adams
"I don't have to look up my family tree because I know that I'm the sap." -- Fred Allen
1.What are the qualities that help make a happy family? It all begins with forgiveness.
In our second reading today, St. Paul exhorts us, “Forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.” We all have feet of clay. Even with the best of intentions, we sometimes say the wrong thing, forget to do right thing, sometimes are selfish, break promises, don’t reach out, or don’t always tell the truth. It is the wise person who makes the effort to say both, “I’m sorry,” and, “I forgive.” Both sentences used by family members helps build strong family ties.
2) The last sentence in today’s second reading has been translated, “Fathers, do not nag your children, lest they loose heart.” “Lest they lose heart…” Criticism can do that to a lot of people, not just to children. A lady named Catherine Marshall told this story about herself. It seems she was great at criticizing others, judging them, and pointing out where they should change. One day she read a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Roman where he tells his people not to criticize each other. She decided to try it, but just for a day. And wouldn’t you know it, at lunch with her husband and some friends, there was an unusual amount of silence.
She began to realize how much of her regular conversation was indeed judgmental and critical. But she stuck with her plan, since it would be just a day.
As the day went on she noticed something else. As her mind was not distracted with critical thoughts, she began getting lots of good ideas and creative thoughts like she hadn’t had in a long time. A letter to encourage a friend, insight into praying for a college student, seeking her child’s forgiveness, all filtered through her because there were no negative thoughts in the way. Her one-day experiment became a lifelong habit. And this made a lot of people much happier!
Many people it seems have a well-developed fault-detector. They are always criticizing and pointing out people’s faults. I had an aunt who was the opposite. She had a built in gift-detector. She was constantly pointing out positive things she noticed about people. “Gee, what a nice sweater,” she would say. “That was a delicious meal.” “You drive so well.” And on and on she went.
Imagine what life would feel like if the people around us were always pointing out our gifts and talents. What do you think would happen if people were constantly praising one another? Maybe it should start with the person in the mirror.
I have a suggestion for the pope, the next time I see him. It has to do with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People come to a priest to confess their sins, and we hear a lot of negative stuff. Maybe there should be two parts to the Sacrament. Before the penitent confesses his or her sins, they first must tell the priest some of the good things they have done. Conscience tells us right from wrong. If we confess the times we have done something wrong, why not confess or acknowledge the times we have done something right. St Paul today exhorts us to kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, and peace. And if we are doing these things, why not acknowledge it in some way? And then give praise to God. He is alive and well in us.
3) Forgiveness. Praising others. Finally, thankfulness. St. Paul tells us today, “Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns and inspired songs.” And, again, “Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.” I think that is a great way to end this year and begin the New Year. The attitude of gratitude.
First, think of all the good things people in your family have done for you, and be sure to thank them. Thank those who cook for you, or clean up for you. Thank those who help you with your work, or drive you places. Thank those who make you laugh, or who take the time to listen to you. Thank those who let you use the remote… I suspect if you think of it, there will be a long list.
Then, thank God. Very long list here. For life, for faith, for family, for friends, for forgiveness, for food, for every breath we take… Yes, St. Paul says, “Sing gratefully to God from your hearts.” A grateful heart is a happy heart.
Forgiving, praising and thanking… A happy family is made up of really good forgivers, good praisers, and good thankers.
I’ll bet that’s what went on in the household at Nazareth. And if we can all grow this year in the spirit of forgiving, praising, and thanking, I can imagine that next Christmas God the Father will put bows upon each of our heads and say, “You are my beautiful gifts to my world.”