This last Sunday of the calendar year celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. The readings portray marriage as between man and a woman and the family unit as patriarchal. Fathers are “over” their children; wives derive their security from their husbands. Some here may be unsettled by this traditional thinking. But I’m going to faithfully preach the Word of God, then after you can make your judgment. Let’s unravel some of what we heard.
The first reading from Ben Sirach outlines the various responsibilities that children have toward their parents and the overall obedience of the family to the Lord. No problem so far.
Here is the standout. In the second reading we hear that wives are to give way to husbands and that husbands are to love their wives. It is the husband that is called to serve the family, and the wife to allow him to fulfill that role. We see this in the Gospel where St Joseph steps up to look after and protect his family.
I want you to see in these roles a dance of love and submission. The man doesn’t lord over, the man steps up and serves. And what does he serve other than the love of his life i.e., his wife? So, the man is called to take charge and express his love through serving, leading, providing for his family — laying down his life for his wife and children. The woman is to allow the man to love her in that way. I think that is beautiful. God’s plan is perfect.
Now I want to read, and for you to reflect on the words of Our Lady of All Nations to Ida Peerdeman. The message or vision is entitled “men and women.”
“Then …the Lady forms two rows of people. Now I see men standing to her right and women to her left. Then she points at the row of women with a compassionate look on her face. She shakes her head in pity and says, as though addressing those women, “Do you still know your task? Listen carefully: as a woman is, so is the man. You women, set the example. Return to your womanliness.”
Then she looks at the row of men and says, “I have one question for you, men: where are the soldiers for Christ? That is all I have to say to you.”
This affirms the tradition role of men and women yet Our Lady attributes the power in the relationship to women. So, let us ponder the jewel of God’s perfect plan of love — the interactive role of men and women; the dance of love — on the feast of the Holy Family.