Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Dec. 26.
There is an old Jewish saying that “the rabbi who everybody likes is no rabbi.” The same can be said of a bishop, a priest, a parent or a teacher. We are all pleasers of one sort or another, so the question is: “Who are we trying to please?”
Some please themselves — we call them selfish. Others try to please others — we call them ingratiating. And still others try to please God — we call them faithful.
Selfish people think happiness comes from getting what they want, usually lots of possessions. They’re mistaken. Ingratiating people think happiness comes from getting people’s approval and so try to impress others. But whatever acceptance they’re able to manipulate is hollow because it isn’t based on who they really are.
No, the only truly happy people are people of integrity whose no. 1 priority is trying to please God, the source of all happiness. But to please God we will of necessity end up sometimes displeasing others. That’s the price of faithfulness. That’s the cost of living for something bigger than yourself. Jesus displeased others. That’s why they nailed him to that cross.
Today’s feast of the holy family teaches us that the only truly happy families are holy families, families of integrity that put God first in everything they do.
Selfish families make pleasing themselves their first priority and spend their energy trying to get the things they want. The problem is that selfish parents produce selfish children and we all know the misery that produces. Others make the conscious decision not to have children at all or to limit themselves artificially to fewer children than God wants to give them, and then wonder what’s missing from their marriage when the selfishness of their refusal to welcome new life could not be more obvious. I say this knowing full well that I’m ruffling a few feathers, but after all “the rabbi who everybody likes is no rabbi.”
Other families spend their energy trying to keep up appearances, thinking happiness comes from social status. The problem is that the home life of such families always falls far short of the impression they try to create. Their children see the discrepancy and we all know the alienation such hypocrisy produces.
The only way to be a happy family is to be a holy family, a family of integrity that makes pleasing God, doing things his way, our no. 1 priority, which is what Mary and Joseph did. The Gospels give us a glimpse of the life of this Holy Family. Mary and Joseph have lived their faith and passed it successfully on to their son, who has learned it so well that even as a 12 year old in the Temple, he astounds all who heard him. Mary and Joseph’s faith is obvious in the way they accepted and treasured the hard-to-understand ways that God was already working through and in their son; meanwhile Jesus’ love for them is obvious in the way he humbled himself and obeyed them, even though as God he knew that he knew a lot more than his parents did.
If your family is to be a holy family — meaning also a happy family — Jesus, Mary and Joseph show us that the only way is to put God first in everything you do — living for something bigger than ourselves.
For parents this means not just saying all the right things, but also really living your faith — making your decisions based on what you think God wants — and then doing all in your power to nurture the faith of your children, accepting and treasuring even the hard-to-understand ways that God is working through and in them, helping them discover and then nurturing whatever their vocation is in God’s plan. You will be able to do this only if you yourself have a living relationship with Jesus, which will of necessity require you to spend time with him every day in prayer.
And for you children this means really opening yourselves up to receive the gift of faith, which will require of you humility and obedience, especially when you think you know more than your parents, which of course, is pretty doubtful. Our Gospel says that’s how Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man and the same one and only path to happiness and holiness is open to us as well.
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