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Homily of Bishop William Crean – Feast of the Holy Family – Sunday 31st December 2023

Feast of the Holy Family

Sacred Heart Church, Rushbrooke

31st December 2023

The school of Nazareth

My friends,

Time doesn’t stand still – nothing remains the same.  Nostalgia allows us to cherish special moments of memory that have remained enriching for us.

A New Year approaches and politically it will involve us in referenda – two referendums which impact on how we view our relationships and responsibilities in family –

1. Is the review of the article in the Constitution on the place of women in the home.

2. Relates to legislation on Assisted Suicide or Assisted Dying

These impending realities come to mind on this Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth.  You may well ask what has the family of Nazareth 2000 years ago to say to families in the 21st century?  You’d be surprised when you think on it a little.  St. Pope Paul VI – the 1st Pope to travel widely visited Nazareth in the course of which he gave an address which opened with these observations.

“The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus – the school of the Gospel”

A little later on he adds

​​​“Here in this school, one learns why it is

​​​  necessary to have a spiritual rule of life, if our

​​​  wishes to follow the teaching of the Gospel and

 become a disciple of Christ”

Then he suggests three elements that can speak to all families

1. the “silence of Nazareth”
2. a lesson on family life
3. a lesson of work

1 The “silence of Nazareth” – gives us “personal space” within family to be our individual self.
2 On family life – he speaks of a ‘communion of love’ where formation received is gentle and irreplaceable and fundamental to the social order.
3 In regard to work – he speaks of the need to restore the awareness of the nobility of work; and reaffirm that work cannot be an end in itself, but that its freedom and its excellence derive, over and above its economic worth, from the value of those for whose sake it is undertaken.

Ideally, our families are truly precious because it is where we are accepted and cherished unconditionally.  For children its meant to guarantee security.  For the elderly, its where they can sense they are loved and cherished in their fragility and sickness.  These are high ideals that are difficult to adhere to.  And women especially are being pressured by society’s demands to be a home maker, a professional and carer.  There are limits to what is possible for individual women.  So it is important for families to talk about these demands and work on them as a family.  In family all are meant to be carers of one another.

In that sense the big question of our time is the issue of work/life balance.  The failure to find that balance results in several negative outcomes mental health issues, burnout, anxiety, broken friendships, plain discontent and bitterness.

The school of Nazareth remind us that honesty, sensitivity, compassion and forgiveness are the fruit of a sincere inner spiritual core.  The inner dimension itself needs nurturing by daily prayer of thanksgiving, petition and forgiveness.

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