Recovering God’s Plan for Marriage and Family: A Sermon on the Feast of the Holy Family

Here in the middle of the Christmas Octave, the Church bids us to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. On the old calendar, the feast of the Holy Family falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which makes some sense. For it is a bit odd to read a gospel portraying Jesus as 12 years of age, a mere 5 days after his birth. And then, next week, we revert back to a Gospel where he is an infant, on the Feast of Epiphany.

Click here to hear a recording of this sermon

Nevertheless, here we are. Perhaps, it is a good time to reflect on family life. For, at Christmas time family, and extended family, often gather together. In terms of this feast of the Holy Family, let us make a consideration along three lines: Structure, Struggles, and Strategy.

I. Structure–All through the readings for today’s mass we are instructed on the basic form, the basic structure of the family. For example:

  1. God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. (Sirach 3:2).
  2. May your wife be like a fruitful vine, in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants, around your table (Psalm 128:3).
  3. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they may not become discouraged. (Colossians 3:20–21).
  4. Each year, Jesus parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover… Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety… (Luke 2:45, 51,).
  5. And he was obedient to them;… And Jesus advanced in age and wisdom and favor before God and man (Luke 2:51–52).

And thus we see the basic structure of family:

  1. A father in honor over his children
  2. A wife and mother, supportive of her husband and his authority.
  3. A mother, having authority over her children, supported loved and encouraged by her husband, and obeyed by her children.
  4. Children who both honor and obey their parents.
  5. Fathers, and by extension mothers, who instruct and admonish their children, but not in the way that badgers and discourages them, but in a way that encourages and builds them up.
  6. A family structure that helps children to advance in wisdom, and age, and favor before God and man.

Here then, is God’s basic teaching on family and marriage. Here is the basic structure for the family, as God sets it forth: a man who loves his wife, a woman, who loves her husband. And in this stable, lasting, and faithful union of mutual support and love, they conceive and raise their children in the holy fear of the Lord.

Add to this, the principal description of the book of Genesis, which describes how God says forth marriage: “A man shall leave his father and mother, cling to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). And to this first couple, God gives the mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:22).

And thus we have set forth biblically  the basic structure for the family: a father, a mother, and children, all reverential, and supportive of one another, in their various roles and duties.

Note how the structure of the family, take its basic form in terms of its essential fruit: the procreation and rearing of children. Why should marriage be a stable and lasting union? Why is Adam told to cling to his wife, to form a stable and lasting union with her? Why?

Because, this is what is best for, and just for children! Children both need and deserve a stable and lasting union, of a father and a mother, of a complementary influence of the different sexes. Here is what is best for children to be raised and formed. Hence, the family structure of a father and a mother, a male and female parent, flows from what is best, and just for children. The structure of the family, as set forth by God, is rooted in what is best, and just for children. Here is what is sensible and best, sociologically, and psychologically, in terms of the proper development of Children.

Even before we open the Bible, it makes sense that a child should have a father and a mother, a male and female influence, and teaching. There are things that a male, and a father, can teach a child, that a mother, and a female, cannot best teach. Further, the mother, and a female, can teach, and model for children what only a mother, and a female best teaches.

This much is clear before we even open the Bible. Male and female influence are essential for the proper psychological and sociological development of the child. Clearly then, God’s biblical mandates that marriage should include a father and a mother, is not without basis in simple human reason, and common sense.

To intentionally deprive a child of this context is both unjust to the child, and unwise. Hence, we see that the basic structure for marriage takes its shape from what is best, and what is just for children. Both God, and nature, provide for a father and a mother, a male and a female, to conceive and raise a child.

It also makes sense based on simple human reasoning that that relationship should be stable, something the child can depend on from day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year, through all the formative years.

Here then is the proper structure for marriage. It is set forth both by God, and by human reason.

II. Struggles–And yet, what should be obvious to us as a culture seems to be strangely absent in the minds of many. Let us be clear, sin clouds our judgment, and makes many think that what is sinful and improper is in fact okay and good. It is not. In our current modern culture we gravely sin against God and against our children by consistent misconduct, and by the refusal to accept what is obviously true. The words of St. Paul are fulfilled in our modern times: their senseless minds were darkened, and they became vain and foolish in their reasoning. (Rom 1:21).

It is clear today that the family is in grave crisis. And it is also clear, that it is the children who suffer the most. Our modern age, in the Western world shows forth the mentality that is both deeply flawed, and gravely harmful to children.

Marriage and family are in great crisis do the willful and sinful habits of the vast majority of adults in our culture regarding sexuality, marriage, and family life. The rebellion of adults against the plan and order of God have caused endless grief and hardship, and set forth a culture that is poisonous to the proper raising and blessing of children.

Last week, we commented on this on the blog. Without repeating that whole blog post that the following excerpt stands forth:

Children have much to suffer in this world of our collective making. And while not all of us are equally guilty of contributing to the suffering of children, none of us are wholly innocent either, if for no other reason than our silence.

Consider that most children born today are no longer born into the stable and lasting family units they justly deserve with a father and mother committed to one another till death do them part.

The problems begin with fornication, which is rampant in our culture. And while most do not think of this as a sin of injustice, it is. It is so because of what it does primarily to children.

The fact is many children are conceived of fornication. Tragically most of these children who are thus conceived are outright murdered by abortion. 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. And for all the vaunted declarations of how contraception makes every baby a wanted baby, nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion has skyrocketed with the availability of contraception. This is because the problem is not fertility, it is lust, promiscuity, fornication and adultery. And contraception fuels these problems by further enabling them. The promises associated with contraception are lies, it does the opposite of what it promises.

Thus fornication and the contraceptive mentality (founded on lies) cause grave harm to children, beginning with death, in huge numbers. And the children, conceived of fornication who do (thankfully) survive are, nevertheless subjected to the injustice of usually being born into irregular situations. There are single mothers, some single fathers, and many other irregularities.

Add to this picture the large number of divorced families. And make no mistake, these shredded families cause great hardships and pain for children that include: children be shuttled back and forth between different household each week, having to meet “daddy’s new girlfriend” or mommy’s new “live-in boy-friend” and all sorts of other family chaos. Blended families also dramatically increase the likelihood of sexual and emotional abuse, since legal relationships seldom have the built-in protections of natural relationships.

All of this misbehavior, individual and cultural, harms children. Not being raised in a traditional marriage dramatically increases a child’s likelihood of suffering many other social ills, starting with poverty.

The chief cause of poverty in this country, is the single motherhood, absent fatherhood.
71% of poor families are not married.
Children of single parent homes are 2 times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime,
2 times more likely be treated for emotional and behavioral problems,
Twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school,
33% more likely to drop out of school,
3 times more likely to end up in jail by age 30.
50% more likely to live in poverty as adults,
And twice as likely to have a child outside of marriage themselves
. [*]

Add to the burdens children must experience, the new trend of same sex adoption. Never mind that it is best for the psychological development of a child to have a father and mother, a male and female influence. No, what is best and just children must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Same sex couples must now be given equal consideration under law (in many states) to heterosexual couples. It’s the adults and their rights that seem to matter most here, what is best for children is quite secondary.

Here then are our struggles. Our families are in grave crisis and MOST children in our culture are not raised in the stable and committed homes they deserve. And let us be even more clear, to intentionally deprive children of this sort of home by raising them outside of marriage, or in same sex unions etc., is sinful, wrong and an injustice.

Let us also be clear that it is not possible to personally judge every case of a broken family. The modern world has experienced as cultural tsunami and many have been influenced by lies and other false promises. It may be true that, if you are divorced you tried to save your marriage, but your spouse was unwilling. Perhaps in a moment of weakness, perhaps before your your conversion to Christ, you fell and bore children outside of marriage, but have done your best to raise them well.

But in the end we must say that children have had much to suffer on account of adult misbehavior in our culture. It is a true and sad fact, and we need to repent, and beg God’s grace and mercy to undue our grave sins of commission, omission and silence. We have set forth a bitter world for our children to inherit.

III. Strategy – What are we to do? In phrase, “Preach the Word.” What ever the sins of us, in this present generation (and there are many), we must be prepared to unambiguously re-propose the wisdom of God’s Word to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Even if many of us in the current generation have fallen short, we cannot hesitate to announce God’s plan for sexuality, marriage, and family.

Our strategic proclamation must include these key elements:

  1. No sex before marriage, ever, or under any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is rooted in the procreation of children and there no legitimate use of it outside of marriage, ever; no exceptions to this.
  2. Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and mother, committed to each other till death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God.
  3. Gay unions, or single mothers and fathers, are NOT an acceptable alternative to biblical marriage, and to intentionally subject children to this for the sake of “political correctness” is a grave injustice to them.
  4. Marriage is about what is best for children, not adults.
  5. Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not rush to divorce courts, which offends God (cf Malachi 2:16).
  6. The needs of children far outweigh the preferences and needs of adults.

Whatever the personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (cf Gal 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage and family to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In a phrase or two: “Back to the Bible! Back to the plan of God! Away with modern experiments and unbiblical schemes.” God has given us a plan. And we, thinking we had better notions, have caused great sorrow and hardship for our descendants. We have acted unjustly, murdered or children through abortion, and, sowing in the wind, have caused those who have survived our misbehavior, to inherit the whirlwind. It is time to repent and help our heirs to rejoice in chastity, marriage and biblical family. Otherwise we are doomed to perish.

God has a plan and it must be our strategy out of our struggles and back to God’s structure for our families.

This song says, So, humbly I come to you and say As I sound aloud the warfare of today Hear me, I pray What about the children?

18 Replies to “Recovering God’s Plan for Marriage and Family: A Sermon on the Feast of the Holy Family”

  1. I read your brilliant homily after listening to our priest say that everyone has a different defnition of what family is and that seems to be all okay. It this sort of lame homily that leaves me dejected.

    Sunday after Sunday I listen to pretty lame uninspring homilies when it is so easy for priests to give a good homily. I wonder where the difference comes from? Is it the formation? Or maybe too many priests have been intimidated by political correctness.

    I hope God gives us more priests like you.

  2. Excellent post, Monsignor. It should be in your greatest hits collection.

  3. Bravo!!! What a wonderful post, this is exactly what our society needs to hear. Thankyou Fr,

  4. I saw this friar talking once and he said sometimes things don’t work out because they are too easy. The biblical way, one man and one woman for a lifetime, without artificial birth control, is just difficult enough.

  5. “I read your brilliant homily after listening to our priest say that everyone has a different defnition of what family is and that seems to be all okay. It this sort of lame homily that leaves me dejected.”

    >> Find a Traditional Latin Mass. There is no reason to allow the lack of Faith among the victims of the conciliar era to undermine your own.

  6. Have we gone past the peak and are we now in the slippery slope of destroying what GOD had planned for us? Have we not gone out un-Genesis-ing our very existence? We kill our fruits, our very own children, we kill each of us not just physically but even with sword of our tongue and word of the powerful media. Greed causes us to destroy our environment. We are playing around the DNA of plants out of avarice. We are experimenting on the structures and economics of governments, communities and families in confusion. We are now in the process of cloning man in defiance of GOD. We extravagantly search, out of earth, existence of other beings when we cannot even improve and help third world countries’ economic miseries. Yes, the moderns arrogantly even declare we have found god ‘Higgs-Boson’ particle as though declaring we now can be gods. Ps 107:26-27 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. We cry unto YOU, OUR LORD, in our trouble and bring us out of our distresses.

  7. In general, I agree with you, but numbers 4 and 6 of your strategic proclamation seem like they might be too strict. For number 4, isn’t marriage about what is best for children-and-adults, without excluding either and without necessarily placing one over the other? Intentionally strengthening marriage is good for children, and marriages can be strong even without children (for example, for couples who are by no fault of their own unable to have children together, or whose children have tragically died). The unitive and procreative purposes of marriage are supposed to be intrinsically connected and equal, right?

    As for number 6, how does that apply to couples who don’t have children (again, through no fault of their own)? From another angle, isn’t the need of parents to strengthen their marriage (sometimes by spending time together without the children) also good for their children? Neither good necessarily needs to be greater than the other.

    1. Marriage as an insitutution has its final and formal causality in what is best for children. Otherwise all sorts of other relationships and temporary arrangements might be fine. As for the rest of your concerns, I am not engaging in the all or nothing thinking these concerns imply. I have written elsewhere on the need for couples to strengthen their marriage. One sermon or post does not contain all.

  8. And excellent homily, Monsignor, that needs to be widely disseminated (I have shared it with the catholics on the FreeRepublic web site). As for the Feast of Epiphany next week, actually, it is properly placed. In the Eastern Churches this feast is known by two names: Epiphany and Theophany. The Greek word Epiphany means manifestation or an apparition and the word Theophany refers to an appearance of God. On this day we celebrate the appearance or manifestation of Christ among us as God’s Son.

    The feast of the Epiphany was first celebrated in the East around the third century and eventually was dropped by the Western Church. In the Eastern Churches the celebration of the Epiphany originally centered on both the Birth of our Lord and his baptism. The feast of the Epiphany is intimately connected with the mystery of our Lord’s birth. The Child who was born for us and the Son who was given to us is manifested before us to be the Son of the Most High. Christ begins his public life with his baptism by John in the Jordan river.

    The feast of the Epiphany reminds us not only of the baptism of Christ, but also of our own baptism. St. Ephrem in his Hymn of Epiphany says: “…our blessed Lord came to be baptized with sinners and because of his glory the heavens were opened. The One who purifies all creatures, desiring to cleanse them, went into the waters and sanctified them for our baptism.” In the Eastern Catholic Churches, on the Feast of Epiphany, parishioners bring bottles filled with water to be blessed for use throughout the year.

  9. Good article.

    Never got to say this to you, but I want to extend my very best Merry Christmas season wishes and best wishes for 2013. God Bless.

  10. Also I do add, on this feast of the Holy Family, please do not forget those who are single, either by choice or because of events they had no control over, also keep in prayers single Catholics such as I in your prayers. Thank-you.

  11. Your columns are refreshing. I always start articles on this topic with a slight anxiety, but you seem to strike a good balance, clearly supporting husbands and fathers and avoiding any rhetoric that makes authority seem domineering or tyrannical.

    1. Well said, Dan. That’s one of the reasons why this sermon is so good. It’s forceful, but resists the temptation that so many right-wing commentators succumb to nowadays – the temptation to heap most of the blame for family dissolution on men.

  12. Msgr Pope,
    God bless you for trying to support the family. Numbers 2 and 5 under strategy 3 go a long ways towards calling divorce what it is.

    I wonder, would you consider putting forth something that plainly defines divorce (see glossary of Catechism) and then clearly repeats what our Catechism says, calling divorce a “grave offense,” “offense against the dignity of marriage,” “a plague” and something that “traumatizes children.” And then plainly link that with the truth of what will happen to our souls if we persist in grave sin until death. Also then, what true repentance from the grave sin would look like. A change in heart. No longer claiming that the indissoluble bond is broken and that I am no longer married. Choosing to love your spouse as commanded by our Blessed Lord. A recognition that I do not truly love my Heavenly Spouse without choosing to love my earthly spouse.

    This could shine a needed light on the darkness of divorce. Thank you for considering Msgr.


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