December 30th, 2016 – Feast of the Holy Family
A Family that is Poor in Spirit, is a Happy Family
The Beatitudes are the successor to the Ten Commandments, the fulfillment of the Law given by God to his people. The Rich Young Man approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus tells him to observe the (Ten) Commandments, to which the Rich Young Man replies, I have done so since my youth. But the Rich Young Man knows there is more to a life dedicated to God than just observing the Ten Commandments, so he asks Jesus, “but what else?” Jesus replies telling him to sell all his possessions and follow Him.
When I was growing up, I attended Catholic Schools and thus I was taught not only the Ten Commandments, but also the Beatitudes. The one that always puzzled me was the one about being poor in spirit. The other ones were fairly easy to understand, but being poor in spirit made no sense to me. Why would anyone want to be poor in spirituality? Or why would being poor financially be a good thing, everyone wanted to have enough money to take care of their family? As I have continued to study sacred scripture and study the beatitudes specifically I have discovered a much deeper meaning and one that is life giving.
The Poorest Family in Human History
Today’s feast day asks us to reflect on the life of the perfect family, the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. This is a family that was truly made in heaven. God himself chose His parents, in fact He created His parents and provided everything they and He would need to be truly happy and serve God in the most perfect way as a family. The Holy Family had everything they needed for perfect peace and a perfect relationship with God in this life and in the life to come. We know very little about the daily life of the Holy Family, but we do know that Mary and Joseph were humble people who had God at the center of their lives, they followed the laws of God (they were married, and made the prescribed offering to God after Jesus was born by presenting him in the Temple) and the laws of man (participating in the Census in Bethlehem) and they had close ties with their extended family (Mary went in haste to be with Elizabeth her cousin after
the Annunciation and they travelled each year with their relatives to Jerusalem for the major Jewish feasts). We also know that they could have had material wealth due to the gifts the Wise Men brought them at the Epiphany, but there is no evidence that they kept these gifts for their own personal use (there are private revelations which indicate that Joseph kept only what his family needed for their necessities and donated the rest to the poor). Based on the scriptures it is clear that the Holy Family chose to live a life of total reliance on God and used any material wealth they had for the benefit of others. Jesus relied on the generosity of others during his ministry and died as he was born, with nothing except the love of God the Father and the love of His family and His disciples.
Our Things Can Own Us
In the United States we are constantly told that we need this or that thing to be truly happy or to make our lives complete. Within the context of a family, this desire for accumulating things multiplies as do the problems associated with it. The more things we have, the more things we need to store, maintain and use. I remember one year after Christmas, my wife and I planned a remodel on our home to accommodate not just our growing family, but all the possessions that we had recently acquired. Time is a precious commodity, our possessions require a bit of that time. Toys require that they be stored in between play times, clothes require space to be stored between uses and they need to be washed, and yard tools need to be stored, maintained and fixed when they break. Think about all the things you own, besides their intended use, I am sure you can come up with more ways that these possessions end up requiring something of you. This is not a monetary cost, but what I like to call a soft cost of your time, your space or your thoughts. These costs are real and we only have a finite amount of time, space and mental capacity that we need to manage wisely.
When we contrast the recipe for fulfillment that our society is selling us and the recipe that God showed us, there is a stark difference. God says that he will provide for all our needs, that He knows the number of hairs on our heads and that He loves us more than we can imagine. Perhaps at this time of year, we should take inventory of what is taking away our time, physical space, and money and see if those things are worth their share of these precious resources. Slavery takes many forms, yet we are called to be slaves of God, not of material things.
Being poor in spirit is to view our wealth and material goods as gifts from God for our benefit. Even if we are wealthy, we can be poor (in spirit) by the way we view the financial wealth and material goods we have. We can share our money and material possessions freely with others. While we may be blessed financially, we don’t need to act like it. We should acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from God to be used for His glory and to benefit those around us.
We should also seek to be detached from our schedule. Our daily activities, the social groups we are members of, the sports, clubs and activities our children are involved in are for our benefit, our family should not be slaves to them.
2016 Year in Review
Your Holy Family Ministries had a very good 2016, we did our best to keep our priorities in order. As directors, Denae and I focused on the health of our family, which was no small challenge. We had many significant life changes with our oldest three children. Each of them left our home this year to make their way in the world and each of their paths is significantly different from each other, which made for a lot of late nights and early mornings for us as parents. While we love this ministry and feel that God has called us to engage in it, we are constantly reminded that our ministry work comes after our primary role to parent our children.
The highlights from 2016 include the following:
- The Diocese of Toledo distributed over 1000 of our 33 Day Family Consecration Books throughout their diocese during their Annual Diocesan Consecration.
- We conducted a Texas Retreat for Families in Huntsville, Texas in late October and we served over 28 families.
- A few blog posts were written, an update was made to the 33 Day Family Consecration book, work began on a weekly family formation program targeted for use within a parish.
- We began holding Family Fun Days and Teen Shenanigans in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus at our local parish in Round Rock.