God’s Plan for the Family - a Reflection of God’s Love

Homily for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

by Fr. Tommy Lane

At this time of year when families are re-united again and as we celebrate The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we reflect on what it is to be a family. The family is the basic unit of society and the Church. It is in the family that we first learn to communicate, and that we learn what is good and bad. It is in the family that we learn what love is because it is in the family that we first receive love. It is in the family that we first learn to forgive and to pray. It is in the family that we first learn about God and Jesus and Our Lady. It is in the family that we learn to value ourselves and to value everything else, picking up our values from what is said and unsaid by our parents. Our family forms us for many years to come. The future of humanity depends on the family because it is through a family that we all come. There are many attempts to destroy the family in our times and if the family will be destroyed in western society, the western world will crumble because all humanity comes through the family. There are many attempts today to redefine the family but they do not reflect God’s plan for the family.

Is our family fulfilling God’s plan for our family? We desire our families to be the best possible families for our children so that they may get the best possible start in life. It is important to reflect on how our family fulfils God’s plan because the family we grow up in influences us for the rest of our lives. When families reflect God’s plan they are mighty. What is God’s plan for the family? What does Jesus say about the family? In Matt 19:4-6 Jesus says,

“Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh? They are no longer two therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.”

These are very clear words from Jesus on God’s plan for the family. It is a man and woman who become one flesh and what God has united man must not divide.

What else has God revealed to us about his plan for the family? In the letter to the Ephesians we read that husbands are to love their wives as much as Christ loved the Church (5:25). How much did Jesus love the Church? He loved the Church so much that he died for the Church. That is how much husbands are to love their wives according to the letter to the Ephesians; husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. The letter also says husbands are to love their wives as much as they love their own bodies (5:28). And then the letter goes on to say something beautiful, it says the love of husband and wife for each other is a reflection of the love of Christ for the Church (5:32). So husbands and wives, is your love for each other a reflection of the unselfish love of Christ for the Church? That part of the Letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful description of God’s plan for the family.

What else do we know about God’s plan for the family? What about parents and children? Again the same letter to the Ephesians states, “Children be obedient to your parents in the Lord - that is what uprightness demands.” (6:1) Children, do you always love your parents? Sometimes we are given the impression that the fourth commandment has been rewritten and now states that parents are to obey their children.  Then the letter goes on to say, “Parents, never drive your children to resentment.” (6:4) So once again we find beautiful words in the Letter to the Ephesians about God’s plan for the family.

If our families are to be families reflecting God’s plan for our families then they will also be families that put God first. So do you turn off the TV every night to pray together as a family? The letter to the Colossians (3:16) says, “Let the message of Christ in all its richness find a home with you.” If faith in God is not what motivates a family, that family is starting with a disadvantage. Put Jesus in the center of your family, “Let the message of Christ in all its richness find a home with you.”

So as we read the Scriptures we see that God has revealed a great deal to us about his plan for the family. Today we celebrate The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. When the Father sent Jesus to us to reveal his love and to show us the way to him, Jesus did not fall out of heaven as a fully-grown adult. Jesus came as a member of a family, The Holy Family of Nazareth. God chose a family to show us how all families are to find their way to him. We pray that our families fulfill God’s plan because that is the only way to be happy families.

At this time of year when families are re-united again it is good to reflect on how our family fulfils God’s plan because the family. What is God’s plan for the family? Jesus tells us that a man and woman become one flesh and what God has united man must not divide. The Letter to the Ephesians reveals much to us about God’s plan for the family. Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loves the Church; in fact their love is to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church. Children are to be obedient to their parents. The Letter to the Colossians reminds us to put the message of Christ in the center of our homes and lives. What a mystery of God’s love and grace families are. The love in a family is really a reflection of the love of God. The vocation of families is to show God, to let God’s light shine through. I would like to conclude with beautiful words from Pope John Paul II last year (2001) on the vocation of families to be signs of God’s love,

Family, believe in what you are; believe in your vocation to be a luminous sign of God's love”….Family, be for the people of our time a “sanctuary of life”. Christian family, be a “domestic church”, faithful to your evangelical vocation.
(Message of John Paul II to the Pontifical Council for the Family on the 20th anniversary of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 22 Nov 2001)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas - The Holy Family

The Holy Family - held together by love through all their problems

The Holy Family persevered through trials just as our families

Related Homilies: Bear with one another charitably, love your children

What God has joined together man must not divide

The Church’s Teaching on Marriage

stories about family