Sisters and Brothers! We are still in the Christmas mood which takes our thoughts to family life. For many people Christmas it is a family celebration and it looks that the Church supports that as a few days after the Nativity of the Lord we are having the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The ordinary life they lived make them close to all families of the world but the Holy Family of Nazareth challenges all families on how important is to protect the presence of Jesus in each family. All the travels which they undertook, as we hear in the Gospel for this Feast, weren’t inspired by a desire to see new places, to find an easier life or to react to boredom. The Holy Family traveled for one single reason: TO PROTECT JESUS. As I look at young people getting married I ask myself how much they can sacrifice to ensure that Jesus has got the center place in their marriage and in their family.
As we know Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ's disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world. They confer the graces needed for the life according to the Spirit during this life as pilgrims to our true homeland. However there are two other sacraments: Holy Orders and Matrimony, they seem to be so different but they are both called sacraments at the service of communion. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God. Both of them Priesthood and Matrimony.
I am sure that we all agree that it is a disaster when a priest or a bishop forgets that his life is all about guiding others to heaven by his preaching and example of life. However on this Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth I would like to bring up what the Holy Spirit teaches us that the vocation to being a wife, a husband is also directed towards the salvation of others. Matrimony is a sacrament at the service of communion because in this sacrament a man and a woman enter into a profound communion with each other and they dedicate the rest of their lives to ensuring the communion of their spouse with the Lord.
A husband can say: “I have done well in my marriage” when his love for the wife made her grow in love for Jesus. A wife can say: “I have done well in my marriage” when her love for the husband made him grow in love for Jesus.
Sometimes I hear that priests shouldn’t preach on family issues as they don’t know the family life. I disagree with that but it is not the time to argue the topic, what I want to say is that as a priest I feel as comfortable among wives and husbands as I feel among priests and the reason for that is that we priests and married people walk the same path to heaven: it is through the service to others. Wives, husbands and priests become saints by helping others to become saints. We will not become saints if we don’t help others to become saints.
To those who didn’t know that all I can say is: Welcome to the club. That’s a good one.