Family-oriented sitcoms may produce a good laugh, but they do not always model healthy relationships. They often feature children who regularly outsmart their parents, or parents who are preoccupied with their own interests and neglect their children. The media even grant awards to programs that highlight dysfunctional families. The readings for today’s feast provide us with a very different point of view. The first reading concentrates on the responsibilities children have toward their parents; the second illustrates parents’ care for their children.
Sirach insists that children are to honor both father and mother. The admonition to care for an elderly parent indicates that it was addressed to adult children, not merely youth. But if this duty to honor is not instilled in the early years, it is very difficult to develop later. Elders should be honored because they are the repository of wisdom gleaned from life. Their hard work earned the benefits enjoyed by the next generation. They deserve respect and care.
In the Gospel, Mary and Joseph put aside their own plans in order to secure safety for the child. One would think that such unselfishness is inherent in parenthood. However, the news is filled with stories of parents violating, even killing, their own vulnerable children. All of society should cherish its children, for just as elders are the treasury of the past, so children are the hope of the future.
Paul provides a list of values that come to life and are nurtured in the warmth of the family. It is there that the child first experiences compassion and kindness and then bestows it on others. It is there that gentleness and kindness shape their tender spirits, so that the same gentleness and kindness will be extended to others. It is in the family that they learn to bear with one another and to forgive one another. This feast reminds us that every family is called to be holy.
• Perform some special kindness for a member of your family.
• Spend some time reflecting on the role that Mary plays in your life.
• What attitudes do you maintain regarding people of Eastern origin? Asians? Arabs?