Sunday, December 29, 2019

Faith, Fidelity and Forgiveness: The Three Keys to Undermining Satan’s Anti-Family Strategy

(Holy Family 2019 (A): This homily was given on December 29, 2019, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Sirach 3:2-6, 6-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-22.) 

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Holy Family 2019]

I’ll begin my homily today with a question:  If you were Satan, what would you do?

(I hope no one is offended by the question.)

Keep in mind what his goal is: The goal of Satan is to take souls to hell—as many souls as he possibly can.

If that were your goal, if that was what you were ultimately trying to achieve in your life, what would be the steps you would take to get there?

Personally, I would attack humanity like I would attack a house if I wanted to get it to fall:  I would go after the foundation!

That means I would go after the family, because the family is the foundation of every society.

And I submit to you that’s precisely what Satan has done in the last half century especially.

And, we have to be honest about it, he’s done a pretty good job!

In fact, he’s corrupted the minds of so many people at this point that many men and women don’t even know what THE NORMAL STANDARD FOR FAMILY LIFE is anymore!  (For any here who might be confused, the norm is one man and one woman bound together in a lifelong marital commitment along with their children—natural or adopted!)

Every study I’ve ever read has made clear that this (the traditional, nuclear family) is the best and healthiest environment in which to raise children—which is precisely why Satan is trying to destroy it through things like infidelity, and contraception (which makes infidelity easier and more common), and divorce, and the promotion of “alternative living arrangements” like the “living together phenomenon,” and so-called gay marriage.

This is Satan’s anti-family strategy which, as I said earlier, is working. 

But the good news is, it’s only working because we are allowing it to work!

Remember, Satan has no power over us save the power we give him.

Which leads to the obvious question: How can we reverse the trend?  How can we undermine Satan’s plans for taking souls to hell through the destruction of family life?  Or, to put it in a more positive way, what can we do to strengthen family life (which is, and always will be, the foundation of our society)?

As I reflected on this in preparation for today’s homily, 3 words came to mind: Faith, fidelity and forgiveness.

Those are all words that begin with F (like family) so they will hopefully be easy to remember: To strengthen family life in general, and our individual family life in particular, we need to promote and practice those 3 realities: faith, fidelity and forgiveness.

First, faith.  A family that’s united in a common commitment to God is a family that’s united in a common belief system—especially a common belief system concerning what’s right and what’s wrong.

And that can go a long way toward achieving family harmony.  If, for example, everyone in your family believes that lying and stealing and cheating and disobeying legitimate authority are wrong, that will make a big difference in what goes on in your home.  Everyone will be “on the same page” so to speak in terms their personal morality, because everyone will have the same, ultimate, Divine Authority in their life.

Which brings us to fidelity: Fidelity is faithfulness—faithfulness especially toward one another in difficult times.    How many marriages and families break apart when things begin to get tough?  In some families nowadays there’s little or no desire to work at relationships.  I’ve heard of parents—supposedly Catholic parents—who have threatened to disown their pregnant unwed teenage daughters unless their daughters get abortions.

What kind of support is that?  Support—fidelity to another person—means encouraging that person to do the right thing, and then helping them to follow through on that intention.  It doesn’t mean condoning sin of any kind, but it does involve giving emotional and spiritual guidance and support to the sinner (in this case the sinner in the family).

Which brings us to the final necessary component for the restoration of family life: forgiveness!  No marriage survives without it, no family survives without it—no interpersonal relationship whatsoever survives without it.

Unforgiveness is at the root of every family breakup, which is why the two most common sentences that are uttered in the home of a HEALTHY family are the sentences, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”

So there you have it: faith, fidelity and forgiveness—the three components of a strong family life.

Now since this is the case it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that the Holy Family exhibited each of these qualities in their interpersonal relationships:

  • They definitely shared the same belief system (and morality)
  • Without question, they showed fidelity to one another—especially in difficult times (think of the faithfulness of Mary, for example, in following her Son, even to the cross; think of the faithfulness of Joseph in guiding and protecting Mary and Jesus in the flight to Egypt and back; think of the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph to Jesus in the gospel story of the finding of our Lord in the temple.  They were not going to stop looking for their Son, until he was safely back with them.)
  • And finally, forgiveness.  Since neither Jesus nor Mary ever committed a sin, there was nothing to forgive there—but the very fact that they never committed any sin means they never committed the sin of unforgiveness—which means they ALWAYS forgave Joseph!  Immediately!

Let me conclude my homily now with a prayer to the Holy Family which I found online.  It ties in with so much of what I’ve said in this homily.  I pray it in the name of all the families represented here at this Mass:

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.