Christ is Born!Glorify Him!
This past week, despite the winter weather advisories and the difficulties that the devil likes to throw in our path’s towards Christ, it was truly a blessing to see so many families and visitors gather together in the warmth of the Church, to celebrate that great miracle that we have been talking about these past few weeks…of our Creator humbling Himself and becoming man…so that we might become gods (with a lower case “g”).
This morning, we hear in the Gospel a continuation of the narrative given to us by St. Matthew. This account is highlighted by describing two contrasting families. We first hear of the Holy Family, made up of Joseph, Mary, and our Lord, who after taking refuge in the residence of the womb of the virgin…after being born in the most humble of places…after being laid in a feeding troth, and being warmed by the breath of oxen and donkeys…is now wrapped up and forced to flee with his family into Egypt.
And then we hear of a second family, led by the very king who the Holy Family is fleeing from. King Herod’s family is the polar opposite…the height of wickedness. Historians point out to us that King Herod was an extremely vicious and cruel man, who murdered two of his own wives…and killed three of his own sons! And if that wasn’t bad enough, we hear about how he is so afraid of the rumors of a rival messiah king being born, that he goes and has all of the holy innocent infants slaughtered.
St. Matthew gives us that chilling prophecy by the Prophet Jeremiah, which is enough to cause all of us to cringe at the wickedness that was on display: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning…Rachel, weeping for her children…refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Unimaginable terror…for an indescribably wicked family.
And the horror, unfortunately does not end there. We also know about Herod Antipas, the one who murdered St. John the Baptist, and took his brother’s wife to be his wife! The Third Herod Generation, Herod Agrippa the 1st, in order to please the Jews who did not convert to Christianity, was the one who murdered St. James!
So on one hand, we have the satanic, blood thirsty, and demonic family of Herod, whose eyes were fixated on their worldly goods, and were guided by the demons of pride, jealousy, greed, lust, and envy. Their family thought only of themselves…of their own needs, wants, and desires…without ever giving a thought to the law of God…or to anyone else. We can be assured, that Herod wasn’t thinking about the lamenting Rachel, when he issued the order to slaughter the holy innocents. His mind was focused on his earthly rule...on his kingdom…on himself. These things were his priorities in life, and we see from history, that that wickedness was passed down to his family. The father’s conduct was inherited like a disease by his children for generations.
But in sharp contrast to all of that, we have the Holy Family. This was a family who was guided by their love and devotion to God. Rather than conversing with generals and nobles of the earth, each member of this family had personal conversations with the angels. Rather than being guided by royal advisors, the Holy Family remained in obedience to God’s messengers, who told them to flee into Egypt. This was no vacation spot for them…they followed God’s command and went into the belly of the beast! Egypt was so wicked at the time, that the Jews would use it as a slang term which meant “ungodly way of life”…and yet the family obeyed…and went.
The holy family never had their eyes fixated on the earth…they were never worrying about their wealth, happiness, and property. They always had their gaze on what was above…and were guided by the very Child who had been entrusted to their care.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the Gospel lesson today is a wonderful reminder for us, that how we act within our families speak volumes about us and our devotion to God. It shows us through Herod’s family…a clear picture of what happens when our priorities are not where they should be. When God is absent from our homes…when we don’t take the time to converse with Him in communal prayer…when we don’t give thanks before our meals…when we don’t show gratitude for all that He has given us…and when we don’t praise him for all he has NOT given us (this is a difficult one to grasp)…we fall prey to the temptations that Herod’s family had fallen into.
One of the greatest sins we can fall into with our families…is to dismiss or forget God.
Herod’s family EGO was so large (and for those that have heard me preach or teach, you know that my favorite acronym is EGO, because it means “Easing God Out”…and it’s a trap that all of us fall into from time to time…filling ourselves and our families up with fleeting nonsense of this world…instead of with God.)
This is something that we simply cannot afford…or have the time…to do. Following the example of the Holy Family is the only way to everlasting happiness…dearest brothers and sisters in Christ. When we pray together…when we ask each other in our families to pray for us…when we give thanks for the food, heat, water, and shelter that we have…when we learn and internalize the Holy Scriptures…and when we use the lives of the saints as examples…we are able (if I may borrow a popular Christian theme of the season”), to “make room at the inn” for Christ in our families…and in our hearts.
All of our families, our spouses, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, as well as our extended parish family who make up the body of the Church, are all called to be places of virtue and devotion…loyalty and sacrifice…and blessings and love.
So Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us strive to make this our “new years resolution” for 2018. Like the Magi did all of those years ago…may God allow us to follow the bright and shining star of the Holy Family, and bring some of those principals and virtue into our homes, as we begin a new year of drawing even closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.