First Sunday after Epiphany – A Holy Family
My dear children: Our Holy Mother, the Church, presents to us a moving picture throughout the year, namely, she throws the life and actions of our Lord upon the screen, from His Incarnation to His glorious Ascension into heaven, in order that we may consider what He has done for our salvation. On Christmas day you saw the new-born Babe in the manger; on Epiphany, the three kings from the East, greeting and worshiping Him. To-day we see Jesus as a child of twelve years.
At this period of our Lord’s life, Mary and Joseph took Him with them to Jerusalem. It was a long and fatiguing journey. What a beautiful example is here given to your parents. Do they take you to church, or at least send you there? When you are “Children of the law,” you are bound under pain of mortal sin to hear Mass on Sundays and holidays.
The great distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem did not deter the holy family from assisting at public worship. How much more easily you can comply with your religious duties! The church is at no great distance from any of you.
At the beginning of the last century there lived in the parish of Roybon, near the town of Marcellinus, in the South of France, a family belonging to the laboring class. The head of this family, Antony Ginien, had already reached a high state of Christian perfection.
Although he dwelt at a distance of about five miles from the church, he was always among the first to reach it on Sundays and holydays, that he might hear Holy Mass, and assist at the offices of the Church.
In the latter years of his life it became impossible for him to travel that distance in the winter-time, on account of his infirmities; but from the Feast of Easter until All Saints he would rise early in the morning, and, with the aid of two crutches, accomplish the journey leisurely in about four hours. Finally, at the age of seventy-five, he passed to his reward, leaving to us all an admirable example for our imitation and instruction.
This pious old man had surely studied the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, and made it his own. From His youth, the good Jesus directs His thoughts and desires towards the service of God. Oh, that we would follow His example from our earliest days; peacefully then would we work out our soul’s salvation. But how is it with us? Are we imitating Jesus not only in our twelfth year, but in all the years of our youth? There are many who pass their youthful days in levity and sin. Is this our case also?
Jesus spent three days in the temple. Ask yourself this question: Do you love to pray in the House of God? Does it give you pleasure to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? It would not, indeed, be a good sign if visits to the church, prayer and exercises of devotion were distasteful to you; this would betray but little love for God on your part.
The example of the boy Jesus is a pointed lesson for all children to be diligent in visiting God’s House and in attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as hearing the sermon.
A rich lady who lived in the country, had no children of her own, and wished, in consequence, to adopt, as her daughter, an attractive and well-conducted girl from among her relations in the town.
She went there for this purpose; and scarcely was her intention made public, when several girls presented themselves before her, recommending themselves to her, and claiming kindred with her. At first the lady gave no decisive answer, but presenting each girl with a coin of gold, she said: “This is the fair-day. Buy for yourselves whatever you like best. Come back afterwards, and let me see what you have bought.”
The girls hurried away and later on returned in the greatest delight. Almost all of them had bought gay-colored ribbons, strings of glittering pearls, gold-embroidered head dresses, and ornaments, which they showed in high glee to their newly-found relation.
One poor girl alone, Augusta by name, had bought none of these trifles, but showed as the result of her purchase a prayer-book, and a distaff with a dozen spindles. The lady was pleased with this. Taking Augusta kindly by the hand, she said: “I am delighted, my dear child, that you have turned your thoughts thus early to prayer and industry. The others have shown too clearly by their purchases that finery and vanity are more to their taste than piety and industry. You shall be henceforth to me as a daughter. Continue ever thus; be always good, pious, and industrious and our good God will be always with you, and His blessing will follow you everywhere. Thus was this God-fearing child rewarded in preference to her vain sisters.
The hidden life of Jesus Christ after His first stay in the temple should be our particular example, my dear children. Quietly and simply Jesus lived in Nazareth. He helped His foster-father faithfully with his carpentering, and read the wishes of His mother in her eyes.
Prayerfully and laboriously His days passed until He was thirty years old, when His public teaching began. All that time Jesus, the eternal God, remained obedient to human beings. How many a child who has barely outgrown schooldays, wants to act independently and without consideration of its parents, to the bitter grief of the latter, and to its own destruction! In a most humble way Jesus shut Himself up in the workshop of a carpenter. How many a youth full of great plans leaves his father’s house because its life is too simple! How many a one is ashamed of the humble position of his father, yet Christ was never ashamed of His lowly surroundings, or His humble parentage. In an out-of-the-way village, He lived the life of a common carpenter till His thirtieth year.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age. Daily the divine Child gave clearer proofs of the infinite fullness of His divine omniscience and sanctity. Children, let us imitate Jesus. Can it be said of us in truth, that as we have advanced in years we have increased in wisdom and grace and holiness? Our knowledge may be greater, but are we not still infected with the same faults and bad habits as heretofore? Oh, let us humble ourselves before God and repent of our lukewarmness!
You should often contemplate the life of the little Jesus, my children, for it is the mirror of all virtues for you, and not only during Advent, but even now when Advent and Christmas have passed away, there should be a little shrine in your heart dedicated to the dear Christ-Child. There offer your acts of prompt obedience, ardent prayer, and loving sacrifice. Jesus will consider this the best and the dearest gift of the season.