Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Holy Family: Three Lives with the Same Center

(Holy Family 2018 (C): This homily was given on December 30, 2018, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Holy Family 2018

I remember hearing a talk back in the mid-1990s by Dr. Peter Kreeft, who at the time was a professor of philosophy at Boston College.  In this talk he outlined what he called, “Satan’s seven-step sexual strategy.”  This was his explanation of how the devil was currently working in the world to destroy families and ultimately the whole human race.  At the time I thought Dr. Kreeft was right on target in his analysis—and 20 years later I still think his insights are valid.  So here’s the strategy:

Step 1—this is the devil’s ultimate goal: winning souls for hell.  Step 2: In order for Satan to win many souls for hell, society must be corrupted.  Step 3: To effectively destroy society, family life must be undermined--because strong families are necessary in order to have strong societies.  Step 4: In order to destroy the family, you must destroy its foundation, which is stable marriage.  Step 5: Marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue, which is sexual fidelity.  Step 6: Fidelity is destroyed by promoting and defending the sexual revolution.  Step 7: The sexual revolution is promoted and defended by the media--through which the seeds of destruction are sown into the minds of millions of people every day.

Now I wish I could stand here and tell you that Satan’s strategy has failed miserably in the two decades since Dr. Kreeft gave this talk—but I can’t do that.  That would be a lie.  Tragically, the devil has been incredibly successful.  For example, I don’t think Dr. Kreeft could even have imagined in the mid-90s that for a large segment of our society in 2018 words like marriage and gender and family no longer mean what they’ve meant for thousands of years.

Confusion is a very effective tool of the devil (Dr. Kreeft makes that clear in his seven steps) and right now confusion reigns in our culture.  What, for example, do you call a transgendered person?  Which name do you use?  What do you put on an application form in the space where you’re asked to give your “sex”?  If you’re conceived through IVF, who are your parents?  Is it the sperm donor?  Is it the surrogate?  Is it the man and woman you live with?  Is it the scientist who fertilized the egg in the petri dish?  Is it some of these people, or is it all of these people?  In one way or another, are they all your parents?

We are so confused!  However we need to be clear about it: the confusion is not from God!

Thankfully those of us who are Catholic don’t have to live in this confusion—if we center our lives on God and his revealed truth.  Which is one of the great lessons we learn from the Holy Family!  Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived lives of (to quote today’s second reading) “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  They weren’t confused about right and wrong the way people today are.  That’s because they all had God and his truth at the center of their lives.  Their common ambition was to serve the Lord and do his will.

They had problems like we all do.  They faced tense situations in their family, as every family does.  We heard about one of those situations in today’s gospel reading from Luke 2.  But the fact that God and his truth were at the center of things made a huge difference in how they dealt with these challenging situations.

Notice, for example, what happened when Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus after searching for him for three days.  Mary said to our Lord, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Now, did you notice something missing from that exchange?  I did—anger!  There was no anger in Mary’s question; there was no anger in Jesus’ answer.  And also note: after Jesus said that he had to be in his Father’s house, the conversation ended.  There’s no record of anything else being said.  I think there’s a reason for that: Even though Mary and Joseph didn’t fully understand our Lord’s response, it was enough for them to know that he was serving the heavenly Father.

He did what he did to serve God the Father, and that was a sufficient explanation for Mary and Joseph.  It was sufficient because they had the very same desire in their hearts!  Their lives were also centered on doing God’s will.  And so a scene, which could have been very ugly, wasn't.  The harmony of the Holy Family was not disrupted, although it very easily could have been.

And here's where we see the application to our families.  The three members of the Holy Family shared a common commitment to God, and that's why they had peace and harmony in their relationships—even in difficult and stressful situations.  They had a common center to their lives, and everything else revolved around that common focus.  In today's families, unfortunately, God is not always the common focal point.  Dad's life might be centered on work, mom's might be as well.  One child's life might be centered on sports; another child's life might be centered on music; another child's life might be centered on something else.  That is definitely not the formula for peace in a household—and for avoiding the mental and moral confusion that’s now rampant in our culture.  Rather, it’s the formula for alienation and more confusion. 

So today we all need to ask ourselves: what (or who) really is at the center of my life?  And if we discover that what’s at the center right now is not God and his truth, then we need to make a change--for our own sake, certainly, but also for the sake of our family.