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Third Sunday Of Advent

by Rev. Mark Connolly

The season of Christmas, more than any other seasons of the year, is something special for all families. Whether it is the reminder of the life of the first Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph; and what they went through. Whether it is because of the festive spirit is upon us at this time, whatever it is, this is the season for families - your family and mine. There is no other season of the year comparable to it. No matter how far you go back in history, families have had, in each decade or century, a tough going. Believe it or not, at Christmas many elderly people have a tough time.

I remember years ago when I conducted the television Mass which went all throughout the country, it was amazing to me to find so many elderly people who just did not like the Christmas holiday. Many of their families and friends had gone or died. It was the end of the year and they were basically quite lonely so Christmas was not a real happy time for many of them. When you go throughout the life of many, many families, not only throughout the Christmas season, but throughout the year, find life is filled with many obstacles and is just plain tough going for them at times.

When you analyze it, there are many factors outside your home that influence your family insider your home and make life difficult for you and your family. Whether it is your job or a lack of a job, whether it is your in-laws or other people, oftentimes if we are honest with ourselves family peace is hard to achieve. If you study the first family of history, namely that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you recognize that they confronted hardships at every facet and every turn of their lives.

First of all, Mary was pregnant and there was no room for them at the inn. Secondly, a king by the name of Herod wanted to kill her child because of the jealousy that this child would encroach upon his kingship. Thirdly, they had to take flight into Egypt and since they were Jewish, of the house of David, they were going into a land that was quite anti-semitic. Finding a job in that climate could not have been too easy. So when you analyze the rest of the life of the Holy Family, they, too, had their sociological and economic problems. Life might have been more simple, but it was not. The problems you face and the ones they faced have a lot in common.

Every society seems to make family life much more difficult that we are inclined to realize. If you go back into the time of Charles Dickens in England, the family, because of the industrial revolution, was practically forced to live in bondage. The father of the house was committed to a bondage that kept him working in factories that were sub-human and the mother of the home was committed to a home of drudgery that was equally sub-human. The works of Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist and Tales of Two Cities - remind us of the bondage that families faced day after day. If you travel further down the road of history in the early part of our country, especially from the time of the immigrants coming into our country, the people who came from different lands were also subjected to a kind of bondage. They had to work in the factories for long hours. They had to work in the coal mines for long hours. If they did not like it, there were hundreds who could have taken their jobs and work under these same adverse and sub-human conditions.

Whether you go back to the time of Christ and his Holy Family, whether you consider the time of Charles Dickens and his family generation, whether you consider the immigrants and their families, the family of just about every generation has been assaulted and hurt by factors outside the home. But if you analyze the world of the past concerning the assaults on families, there is quite a difference of the assaults on the families of the past and the assaults of the families of the present.

Years ago there was starvation and high unemployment. Do you realize that in our country during the depression unemployment was about 25%. Today it is between 6% and 7%. If you look back with all the difficulties our ancestors had as families, there is one unusual factor. Most of them stayed together. There seems to have been greater solidarity, greater allegiance and greater loyalty, especially to the family name. They did everything humanly possible to uphold that name and keep that family together. We can never forget the importance of the families of the past. They have taught us a lot and why is the family so important.

If you read Arnold Toynbe, the great English historian, he said of the nineteen great civilizations that have existed since the beginning of recorded time, sixteen of them have crumbled from within and the reason is that the family unit in these civilizations slowly disintegrated. That is why the family is so important for us to keep together. No matter how sophisticated we become, we all know that there is no place like home. But we should also realize there is almost no substitute for a strong family unit. It is something that is difficult in achieving, almost impossible at times, but basically a good home is a unique treasure. It is a pearl of great price.

I think all of us know that in growing up in family life there are always all sorts of difficulties, there are always money problems, there are always in-law problems, there are always educational problems, there are always the problems of people living under the same roof twenty four hours a day with each other. But there are certain examples we have right in our own society of families who recognize that each one can be an instrument of peace to the other by the words they bring into the life of the other. Oftentimes when you analyze it, what really breaks a family apart is not the great tragedies, not the great heartaches, but the constant belittling, the constant denigrating, the constant putting down of another, what we call theologically the sins of the tongue. When you think of it, God gave us this beautiful instrument we call our tongue so that we could pray, we could encourage, show charity, practice compassion, practice consideration by our words and our relationship with others.

Each one of us has an opportunity to keep a lot of the problems of the world outside our home. Each one of us has an opportunity by the tongue God has given us to speak and to pray for the betterment of your family. There is nothing, with all its human imperfections, better than a Christ-like home. You can make your home a Christ-like home. Nothing will equal a Christ-like home. Nothing will surpass it if you do your part by the use of your tongue, your family will succeed. You will succeed. It has to be done with constancy. Each one has to realize he has his own individual obligation to the family. Each one has to learn that little things done each day with constancy can do a lot for our family.

The Lord God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets captives free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind;
the Lord raises up those that were bowed down.
The Lord loves the just;
the Lord protects strangers.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The Lord shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.

- Psalm 146

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