'Intentional Catholic families' - Feast of the Holy Family 2017

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Intentional Catholic families' - Feast of the Holy Family 2017

At Christmas we celebrated we joy of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. With the angels we declared that today a Saviour has been born to us; he is Christ the Lord. The history of humanity has been forever changed. God has entered our human condition with one single purpose: God has come to save us.

The birth of every child is a moment of joy, but our joy as believers is multiplied because of the wonder of God becoming man.

Every year on the Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is most appropriate, because it declares the fact that as God became man, he entered human life within a family. This is an obvious fact but something of significance in these days.

A child is born as the fruit of the love of a man and a woman. A child, according to the wise and provident plan and intention of the Creator, is meant to be born into the stable and enduring relationship of a man and a woman, which is the marriage union. Marriage is a sacred covenant and is based in the complementarity of a man and a woman and has been intended for human life by the Creator. Marriage has always been understood as involving the equal and different contribution of masculinity and femininity. This is true at all levels of the relationship: physical, psychological and spiritual. God created human beings male and female precisely for marriage. Man and woman complement and complete each other. Scripture says, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’

Marriage and family are God’s good plan for human life.

No child can be conceived without the contribution of both a man and a woman. This then leads to the child receiving the complementary contribution of fatherhood and motherhood to guide their growth towards human maturity. Both offer different but vitally important contributions to the nurturing of the child.

This is a self-evident truth, yet these days it has become necessary to emphasise this fact. Sadly our society has taken a decisive step to reject this truth. In the decision to legalise the union of two members of the same sex, it has departed not only from the Christian view of marriage but also from humanity’s understanding over the millennia. Changing the legal definition of marriage though does not change its essential meaning. Marriage pre-exists the law and cannot be altered by it.

That marriage is between a man and a woman is a self-evident biological fact. That a child needs the mutual contribution of a man and a woman not only for conception but to provide the best chance for a healthy and rounded nurturing is something that has never been questioned until recent years.

Our society has taken a serious backward step and this step is not in the best interests not only of marriage but of the children raised in these new configurations. Every child needs to know their identity, their heritage. They need to know who their father is, who their mother is.

The child Jesus benefited from the profound love of his mother Mary, and from the sound oversight of Joseph.

Today, on this Feast of the Holy Family, we contemplate the fundamental human reality of the family. We take the opportunity to affirm our consciousness of its vital importance. It is no longer something we can take for granted.

When we look at the Holy Family we can also see that family life is not only a natural phenomenon which nurtures human life, but it is also intended to create a spiritual environment. A man and a woman of faith create a spiritual atmosphere into which the child is born. The family is called the ‘domestic church’ because the family is a place where the faith is first lived and transmitted. Parents play a vital role in nourishing the initial steps of faith for their children.

The Christian home is more necessary than ever for children to have the opportunity to come to know God and embrace a spiritual vision of life. Parents who know the immense value of living a life of faith naturally want to hand this on to their children.

The Gospel says that Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace. To grow to full human stature is to grow not only physically and emotionally but also in grace: to grow in the love of God, to grow to know God and embrace the life of faith. This is the responsibility of Christian parents. It is far from easy these days. However, for parents, it can be that the couple make a basic decision, like that made by Joshua in the Old Testament as he led the people into the Promised Land. He said simply yet with deep conviction: ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

Today it is necessary that Christian couples make such a decision. We need to become what I would call ‘intentional Catholic families’. Our Catholic faith is not just a personal matter, but needs to be the foundation for all aspects of family life. We are meant to become a holy family, just like the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Today’s feast touches on issues that are vital for every Catholic. It reaffirms our belief that marriage, as the foundation for family, is between a man and a woman and can never be otherwise. Secondly, it reminds us that family is that fundamental element not only of society but also of the Church. We embrace the call and challenge for our family to become an intentional Catholic family.

Today we commend our families and all families to the Lord, praying for His grace and favour.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 31 December 2017