Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: Feast of the Holy Family

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope the new year will bring you many blessings. It’s been awhile since my last post, and since we just celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family, I thought I would share the message I gave at last Sunday’s Mass:

There’s a country song that came out in 2006.
It’s sung by Rodney Atkins and is called “Watching You.”

It opens with a father driving down the road
with his four-year-old boy strapped in a car seat next to him.
The boy is eating a Happy Meal. A light changes to red, the father slams on the brakes.
French fries go flying through the air and orange drink covers the boy’s lap.
And the boy says a bad word.
The dad looks at the boy and says,
“Son, where did you learn to talk to like that?”

And the boy says,
“I’ve been watching you, Dad. Ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I’m going to be just like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall you are.
We got cowboy boots and camo pants. Hey, we’re just alike, ain’t we, Dad?
I’m going to be just like you, so I’ve watching you.”

Great little song!
And it think it’s good song to help us appreciate
the message in today’s readings on this Feast of the Holy Family because, as the song unfolds, you find that when the father and boy get home, the dad goes out to the barn.
He’s concerned that he’s not providing his son a good example,
he’s not being the kind of father he knows he should be.

He prays real hard, “God, please help me help my stupid self.”

Later that night, he gets his boy ready for bed. And he watches as his son kneel at the side of the bed and close his little eyes and fold his little hands and talks to God like he was talking to a friend, and the father says,
“Son, where did you learn to pray like that.”

And the boy says,
“I’ve been watching you.”

From the day of our baptism and all through the formative years of a child,
the parents hold the important position of being the primary teachers of the faith.

The catechism says that a sacrament is an outward sign to symbolize the grace we are receiving on the inside. But we could also simply define a sacrament as “anything that gives skin to God.” What is meant by this?
There is a marvelous story told of a four year-old girl who woke up one night frightened, convinced that there were monsters and spooks in her room. So she ran to her parents’ bedroom. Her mother, however, brought her back to her own room, put on a number of lights, showed the child that there was nothing to be afraid of, put her back to bed, calmed her, and finally left her with the words: “There is nothing to be afraid of. When I leave, you won’t be alone in the room. God will be here with you.” But the young girl replied: “I know that God will be here with me, but tonight I need someone in the room who has some skin!”
It all starts with Baptism. And then the child looks to the family. And just like kindergarten, it all starts with show and tell:

The statue of Mary on the bedroom dresser.
The nativity scene beneath the Christmas tree.
The grace before meals. A crucifix over the bed.
The kneeling at the side of the bed
and learning the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the Act of Contrition.

It starts with show and tell then moves on to Praise and Thanksgiving.

The child begins to explore the world and learns that God made the sun and the moon and the stars. And then God gives them friends and they learn to be nice to them.

And when families go on vacation the children learn that all the world is big and beautiful and comes from the hand of God. And so our children learn to end each day with thankful hearts because God made the world beautiful and good and life is a wonderful, wonderful gift from God.

And soon it’s time for First Communion and our children learn that God is as close to them as the Bread and Wine on the Altar.

This is how it starts.
This is how faith is first placed in tender hearts. Through the family. And it is through the safety of the home where children first taste the reality of a love that knows no limit. It is that same unconditional love God offers each one of us.

This is why we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family.

Because life is sacred…when families are holy.
So, let us remember the words from that song:

“Son, where’d you learn to pray like that?”

“I’ve been watching you, Dad.
Ain’t that cool?”

Until next time, God bless.

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