27 December 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family, Year C

“Coventry dad delivers baby in bath thanks to TV help”: this is the headline in the Coventry Telegraph today. On this Feast of the Holy Family, whilst it is true to say the Telegraph isn’t always the best advocate for the Catholic Church, this story speaks volumes about our belief in what it means to believe in God.

It is the story of the birth of Baby Beatrix Spencer. Her parents, Victoria and Gregg, went to the hospital during labour but were told to return home and run a relaxing bath; Beatrix would be hours before she arrived. The medical experts were wrong! Beatrix was born in the bath less than two hours later and was delivered by Gregg thanks to having seen it on the TV and having memories of the birth of his son, little Louix, two years ago.

Isn’t it true that we know, deep down, that a true family comprises mum, dad and children, preferably lots of children, since they are blessings from God. Yet at the same time, how few of us find ourselves living the ideal? We are surrounded by so many variations on a theme of family that we can easily lose sight of what it means to be a family. Or we even start to change our view on what a family should be. We say things like: so long as there is love in the home, that is what matters. Well, it’s not the full picture, but it is a helpful start.

In recognising that we need love we are crying out to mimic God who is love. All we ever want is to be loved and this is never more so than when we think of our parents and how much we desire to be loved by them. Please God many of us know the love of our parents all our lives, but when it goes wrong the effect can be devastating. This is why St John encourages us in his first letter to “think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”

The model for how we live our lives is not our own experience but the love of God for each of his children, his love for us. St John continues by telling us to keep God’s commandments: “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to.” This is exactly the truth of our two families, whom we meet in the scriptures today: Hannah and Elkanah; Mary and Joseph. They keep their faith, love one another and God bestows greatness upon them. He gives them children. Samuel who will play such a crucial role in the history of salvation: Jesus who is the summit and source of that salvation.

Coming to Mass is one way in which we clearly show our belief in the name of Jesus, though I know we all doubt from time to time. “Of all human activities, man's listening to God is the supreme act of his reasoning and will.” said Pope Paul VI. We show our belief most especially through our witness. Few can witness more to the love of God than those who have made the commitment of Marriage and, to this end; we are inviting all married couples to renew their wedding vows today. During the Rite of Marriage, everyone present is asked to stand during the vows and, in this way, become witness to God’s love made manifest in the love between a man and woman. St John of the Cross affirms, "The smallest movement of pure love is worth more to the Church than all works put together."

Baby Beatrix Spencer’s mother, Victoria, had wanted to deliver her second child at home but because of very serious complications during the birth of her son, Louix, this option had been firmly ruled out. Any yet, through whatever circumstance, her prayer was answered and Beatrix was born at home, safe and, no doubt, very lovingly into the arms of her father, Gregg. The Lord works in the most mysterious of ways. May God bless the Spencer family, and all families, at this most wonderful celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family.

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