Lectionary Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-17 / Mt 2:13-15, 19-23
“Ite Missa Est,” in its english translation, “Go, the Mass is ended,” are the common words heard, in one formula or another by a priest or deacon to conclude the Celebration of Mass. These are words of mission, these words prompt up to get up on our feet, to go out and serve the Lord.
Today’s readings, specifically the Gospel, we see an Angel telling Joseph to, “Get up…”, or the American Lectionary uses the term, “Rise,” twice (see Mt 2:13, 2:29). Joseph does not hesitate. As the paternal figure of the family, the protector of the Holy Family, “Joseph got up,” and fulfilled his mission. He did not stop to think about what the Angel told him, “Is this true? What should I do?”
When the Mass is complete, do we hesitate to live the call, the vocation that God has entrusted to each and everyone of us? Does the Mass simply end with “Ite Missa est”? Or do we let the Mass continue on in the family, commonly called, the “Domestic Church”?
It is unfortunate that in a secular world today, the Mass ends for some at “Ite Missa est”. The act of going to Mass as a family on Sundays become something like a weekly routine, to get it done. The faith is something acted out in robotic function. However, when we are called to “Go,” we are called to continue living the faith within the Domestic Church, within the family.
How should families live in the Domestic Church? St. Paul addresses this very well in his letter to the Colossians. The first part of the epistle discusses the virtues members of a family should instill within themselves: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love. In the second part of the epistle, St Paul speaks of the spiritual aspect of the family, a family which allows the “peace of Christ” to rule in each other’s hearts, a place where the word of Christ can dwell, and house of prayer, a house of thanksgiving. The last part of the epistle discusses the attitudes husbands should have towards their wives, wives with husbands and children to parents.
I think many families today have difficulty of teaching and living the faith within the family. While we manage to be virtuous towards one another within the family, in a secular world, it has become increasingly difficult for younger generations of parents to spread the faith to later generations. It has been difficult for families to actually, “Go!” live the mission entrusted to them as Catholic parents.
While some may drop their children off at Catechism classes, parents fail to be able to give apologetical answers, answers in lines with the Catholic Church’s teachings, when their children approach them about matters pertaining to the faith. Parents fail to catechize their children properly, thinking it is the responsibility of priests and catechists. Some parents do not even bring their children to Catechism classes at all, or worst, not even going to Sunday Mass at all – let alone having the faith taught and lived within the home.
The faith should start within the family. Children spend more time in the family than in the Church or at Catechism classes. I do not blame the parents or children within these families of poor Catechetical instruction or lack of Catholicity within their homes.
Parents want beautiful things for their children. They only want the best for their children. For this, I see hope. It is important that good Catechetical resources be made readily available because Catechism classes are no longer just classrooms of blackboard and chalk – there are numerous well-done Catechetical and and Apologetical resources via internet, especially on YouTube. The more we dive into the Catholic faith, the more we come to understand why we do things and that often gives people a new lense to Catholicism. I know, children often ask “why” and Catholic parents often have trouble answering those questions.
However, the most important Catechetical lesson we can give to others, is that of our own lives since our actions speak louder than words. Do our lives reflect the teachings of the Church? You can read the whole Bible, the whole Catechism, but if you do not strive to line your life up in accordance with what is taught by the Church, then we have failed to Catechize. Sometimes, we undermine how smart children are, but they will imitate a lot of what their parents do.
The Catechetical aspect is important in building the Domestic Church. However, St. Paul also mentions that families should be homes of prayers and houses of thanksgiving. The culture that we live in today is ever so focussed on consumption, especially in North America. We take a lot of things for granted. We are so caught up with social media, with a “virtual world” that we fail to focus ourselves in prayer, conversation with God and fail to count our blessings. I ask, how often do parents recollect their children in a moment of prayer and thanksgiving? I know many families love to spend time watching movies, playing sports or going to restaurant outings, to name a few activities… but fail to be grounded in prayer, which in reality, can take less than 10 minutes.
On this feast day of the Holy Family, we pray for families all around the world, that they make look up to the Holy Family, as a model for all families, a model for all Domestic Churches.
For each of us, living our own vocation, we pray that we may be like St. Joseph, be ready to “go” and faithfully live out that vocation – especially parents, who are tasked with an ever challenging task to live their vocation as Catholic parents, handing on the faith to their children in this secular world today.