Monday, January 1, 2018

Archpastoral Letter for the New Year of the Lord 2018

Beloved of the Italo-Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, Friends, Benefactors, and Supporters:

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We are coming to the end of another year. The media is filled with commentaries on the year that will soon be consigned to history, and speculative predictions on what lies ahead. For me, the end of the year is always a reflective time; a time for taking stock of what I am doing with the time allotted to me by God. This has been a particularly important exercise since my illness in 2016. I thank Almighty God, the Giver of Life, for granting me another year to serve you, and I pray that He will allow me to continue my ministry and service to you in 2018, the coming New Year of the Lord.

Human beings have always marked time by significant events. The real question is not whether we will mark time, but how we will do so. What events and what messages are we proclaiming in the calendaring of time?

For the Christian, time is not meant to become a tyrant ruling over us. Rather, it is intended to be a teacher, instructing and presenting us with opportunity and invitations to walk the way of love, in the way of Christ. Rather than being dreaded as a foe, it is to be cultivated as a friend. Its role and reach is a part of the redemptive loving plan of God. In the Incarnation, the Eternal Word became flesh; breaking into time to transform it from within.

The Lord who created time now gives us time as a gift. By entering into time, He removed the curse it held over all men and women by defeating death. In Him, time now becomes a field of choice wherein we can grow in holiness, experience true happiness, and find real freedom. We can begin to participate in God's loving plan to recreate the entire cosmos in and through Jesus Christ.

Time is the road along which this loving plan of redemption proceeds in our individual lives and in the history of this world. We who have been baptized into Christ are invited to participate in this loving plan by living our lives in the Church, the seed of the eternal kingdom. The Church is not some thing but Some-One into whom we were baptized. The Church is the Body of Jesus Christ. He is the Head of His Body and we are Its members. (1 Corinthians 12:27).

So, how do we view time? Is it a tyrant ruling over us? Or, is it a tutor, teaching us the way to live our lives in this world so that they open into eternity?

Christians proclaim a linear timeline in history. There are a beginning and an end, a fulfillment, which is a new beginning. Time is actually heading somewhere. That is as true of the history of the world as it is our own personal histories. Do we live this way?

Christians mark time by the great events of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are moving toward His loving return. We mark our Christian culture with events of importance from the ongoing family events, the history of the Church of which we are members.

The members of that family were birthed from the wounded side of the Savior on the Cross, at Calvary's hill. That family was sent on a mission when He breathed His Spirit into them at Pentecost. We remember them and walk with them so that we have models and companions for the journey of life. They are that "great cloud of witnesses" the author of the letter to the Hebrews discusses (Hebrews 12: 1-3). They will welcome us into eternity and help us now along the daily path.

For Orthodox Catholic Christians, the Church’s liturgical year follows a rhythmic cycle. It points us toward beginnings and ends and, in so doing, emphasizes an important truth that can only be grasped through faith: every end is a beginning.

In our liturgical life, no sooner than we have celebrated the last Sunday of the Year, the feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, and we prepare for the birth of Savior. Our Christian faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the "Alpha", (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) and the "Omega" (the last letter), the beginning and the end. He is the Giver, the Governor, and the Fulfillment of all time.

So it is with each day of our lives. There really is a Divine design. Every morning invites us to begin again. The very structure of the 24-hour cycle of each day reveals the goodness of a God who always invites us, and empowers us, to begin again in hope and with joy. Hope is reborn with every sunrise.

Every evening invites our honest reflection, expressions of gratitude to the Lord who gave us life, repentance for where we fell short, new choices to amend our life, and gives us the healing, rejuvenating rest in the Lord which awaits all who live in Him. Then, the sun invites us to begin again by saying "YES" to the Lord's choice and invitation of love. Our time is to be filled with bearing the fruit that remains in the garden of grace called daily living.

These truths concerning time can have ever-increasing meaning for us as we grow in the life of Grace. They are meant to change us. They invite us into a deeper walk with the Lord and with one another. It is now up to us to respond to the lessons of time and the invitation of faith.

As we move from one year to the next, we also move along in the timeline of human life allotted to each one of us. We age. The certainty of our death is meant to illuminate our life and the certainty of the end of all time. The coming of the Lord is meant to illuminate time's very purpose and fulfillment in Christ.

Death can become a second birth for each one of us, through living faith. Francis of Assisi prayed these words in his most popular prayer "it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." He referred to death as a "sister" implying that he had a relationship with it. So too did all of the great heroes of our Church, the saints.

Do we view death in this way? Is death a catastrophe to be avoided, a source of fear? Or, as we age, is death becoming a friend, a companion who beckons us on to a more meaningful, redemptive life? Is death becoming a "sister" whom we will welcome in due time? Do we believe that it is simply a change of lodging, a passage to a new birth in the Lord?

The author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that "God did not make death and He does not delight in the death of the living" (Wisdom 1:13). We recall the tender moment recorded for us in St. John's Gospel where Jesus, brokenhearted at the death of His friend Lazarus, comforts his sister Martha with these words "Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11: 25 and 26).

Do we truly believe this? Do we live in a way that such a belief becomes a reality? Jesus Christ abolished death and brought us eternal life by removing what St. Paul calls "it’s sting"; it's essential evil, separation from God and the eternal love which is communion with God. Christ robbed death of its power over us through His Resurrection. He made that tombstone a stepping stone, a portal to eternal life (1 Corinthians. 15:55-57).

As we begin the New Year 2018, let us remember that everything we desire, everything we hope for, can be found and fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In this New Year, let go of the old you and embrace your potential. Let go of the past failures. Let go of the past mistakes. Let go of the past and embrace your new beginning. God has great plans for you through Jesus Christ. Accept Christ not only in word but in deeds.

I am truly excited about what God is preparing to do in this 2018th Year of the Lord, and I am praying that His purpose will be revealed to you.

To all of you, I extend my archpastoral blessing and wishes for health, peace, length of days, happiness, and joy in 2018.

Paternally yours in Christ,

+ Archbishop Stephen
Most Rev. Archbishop Stephen J. Enea
Primate of the Italo-Greek (Italo-Byzantine)
    Orthodox Catholic Church      

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Homily for the Sunday after Christmas (12/31/17)

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

“Flee to Egypt.” With those words echoing in his ears Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary by night and went to Egypt. Regardless of whether this story really happened the way Matthew tells it, it is not hard to know that it is true. The names and faces might change but it is a story that continues to be lived in lands throughout the world today. We have seen the pictures. We have read the news. We have heard and maybe even participated in the arguments over what to do about this situation. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not the first refugees and they are not the last.

What do you hear in today’s Gospel, the flight to Egypt? What feelings does it evoke? What images fill your mind’s eye? What prayers arise within you? What experiences does it recall from your life? What does it have to do with you and me?

I picture a little boy and his mom and dad. Violence, a tyrant ruler, an oppressive government, and the threat of death have them on the run. They have left behind more than what they have taken. I feel the parents’ fear and the knot in their stomachs. I am certain their one thought, their only priority is to protect the child and keep him safe. I see them feeling their way through the darkness of night hoping not to be noticed. With each passing moment, they are a bit further from the known and familiar, and bit closer to the unknown and unfamiliar. I hear their whispered questions. When will we get there? How much further is it? What will we find? What will it be like?

I am not talking about only Jesus and the Holy Family, I am also talking about the thousands upon thousands of people who have had to flee and are fleeing from their homelands because of persecution, tyrannical rulers, oppressive governments, and wars. One child arrived safely in Egypt. Other children, together with their parents, have drowned and washed up on beaches. Others were turned back from safety because nobody wanted them because they were different. All were refugees and they shared a common story.

I cannot explain why one child found refuge and the others do not. There are no good or acceptable reasons for that, but I can tell you what are not the reasons. It is not because Jesus’ life mattered more, was more important, or more valuable than other children. It is not because God loves Jesus more than His other sons and daughters. It is not because Jesus is God’s Eternal Son and the other children were just normal human beings. If we think it is any one of those things, we have missed the point of Christmas. We have denied that the Word became flesh; human flesh, flesh like yours, like mine, like your children’s. We have forgotten the prayer that reminds us that in Jesus, God shares our humanity so that we might share His divinity. If that prayer means anything at all it means that the depth and measure of God’s joy and thanksgiving that Jesus arrived in Egypt is equaled only by the depth and measure of God’s anger and sorrow that those children and families who sought and who seek safety did not reach their Egypt.

God’s heart is with the refugee. In the birth of Jesus, in the angel of the Lord who spoke to Joseph in a dream, and in the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, God has revealed Himself to be aligned with the refugees of this world, not only with those from oppressed and war-torn countries, but with you and me as well.

And if it sounds like I just named us as refugees you heard right. Jesus, that little boy who fled to Egypt with His mother and father, and all of those children, with their families, who have sought safety and peace are the faces of a refugee humanity, a humanity you and I share with them.

In today’s refugee faces we see a modern-day retelling of the flight to Egypt, and in Jesus’ face, we see the spark that ignites hope, kindles the fire of love and illumines the darkness for all refugees. Their stories confront us with our own refugee status and bring to mind the times we have fled to Egypt. Some of you may be on that road now.

If your life has ever been disrupted and you needed a safe place to get away to; if you have ever known it was no longer safe or good for you to stay where you were or to stay the way you were; if you have ever left the known and familiar and traveled in darkness to the unknown and unfamiliar; if you have ever realized your life was at risk and you had to make a change; if your survival depended on crossing borders into a new and foreign land; if you have ever experienced these or a thousand other things like them, then you know what it is like to be a refugee. And my guess is that we all know what that is like.

We may not have had the same experience as Jesus and the Holy Family or the thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, or Iran, but we share a common story and a common status. Herod is not just a king in Israel some two thousand years ago. In every age, Herod is the power, circumstances, and abuses that disrupt and seek to destroy life. Herod is that one who creates refugees. For every refugee, there is a Herod, and there are all sorts of refugees and all kinds of Herods.

You see, being a refugee is not only about tyrant kings, oppressive governments, and threats of death. It is also about a deep longing and drive for a new life and a new place in life. It is hearing and responding to the nighttime calling of God. The refugee life is neither easy nor safe, but we never go alone. We go with the God of refugees, the God who “has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:19-20). We go with the promise that our Egypt has already been sanctified and prepared by the presence of “this Child who is our spark.” This child knows the way. And this Child is Jesus, the Christ, the Expected and Anointed One.

Some of us are refugees from a marriage or relationship that was unhealthy, destructive, or violent. Some are refugees from the land of addiction. Some are refugees wandering through the darkness of depression, emptiness, or a life seemingly void of meaning. Some are fleeing the countries of neglect or abuse. Many of us have recognized behaviors and choices that we had to flee or situations we just had to get away from. Most of us have probably been refugees from the land of grief and sorrow.

I do not know what your refugee story is, but I will bet you have one. I will bet you have had at least one time in your life when you had to get to Egypt. Your life depended on it. You left home for a better place, a different life, a new way; and you left not really knowing where you were going or what you would find when you got there. You trusted the Child to show you the way. You followed in the footsteps of the Holy Family and with each step of the way your life was the retelling of today’s gospel.

Every time I hear today’s gospel, every time I read about refugees in today’s news, every time I reflect on my own refugee status and my times in Egypt, I cannot help but wonder what if. What if Egypt had closed the borders of its heart? What if the Holy Family had arrived only to find a big wall and locked doors? What if the wannabe Pharaohs had unleashed on them the dogs of fear and prejudice? What if the Egyptian people had said, “There’s no room for you here?” What story would we be telling today? Would there be any good news for the refugees of the world? For you? For me? Would the spark have been extinguished?

But none of that happened. Perhaps Egypt remembered. Perhaps Egypt remembered another time, another Joseph, another refugee people. Perhaps God sent the Holy Family to a land that would remember. Perhaps God was hoping and counting on Egypt to remember it had once been a place of refuge for His people, and it could be again. Oh, that we too might remember; that we too might remember the Holy Family, the refugees in the news, and our own flights to Egypt. Oh, that we might remember it all.


Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (12/30/17)

Christ is born! Glorify Him! 

“The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you’” (Matt 2: 13).

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, the family composed of Jesus, His Mother Mary, and Mary’s husband Joseph.

The Gospels are the story of Jesus of Nazareth, you know that already, of course:  the story of His teaching and His work of redemption.  But they have their cast of supporting characters.  In the first and second chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel, we meet an angel, a virgin mother, a wicked king (Herod), and three Magi or wise men (they were not kings).  But the chief supporting character is St. Joseph.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find the child’s life is in danger.  King Herod is so afraid of any challenge to his power that between 7 and 4 B.C. he executed three of his own sons and his favorite wife out of fear that they were plotting against him.  When the Magi tell him that there is a newborn king of Israel, Herod plots to destroy this perceived threat to his power.  The verses we skip over in our Gospel this morning, verses 16-18, were part of our Gospel reading yesterday on the feast of the Holy Innocents; they describe the massacre of the male infants of Bethlehem as Herod “searches for the child to destroy Him” (2:13).

St. Joseph, we know from what Matthew told us earlier, as well as from St. Luke’s Gospel, is not the child’s biological father.  We call him Jesus’ foster father.  He assumes the role of protector of Jesus and of Jesus’ mother, and we see him carrying out that responsibility today.  He serves as a model for all fathers: biological fathers, adoptive fathers, foster fathers, even spiritual fathers.  In fact, he is a model for all mothers too.

He is a model, first, because he seeks to do God’s will in everything.  In Chapter 1, Matthew describes him as “a just man” or “a righteous man” (depending on your translation).  That means Joseph tries in all things to obey the Torah, the Law that God gave to Moses, which is a law that covers not only morality but also worship and practical, everyday life.

He is a model, secondly, because once he understands what God wants, he obeys immediately.  We see that today in his obedience to the angel’s message in his dream: “Take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt.”  He gets up and departs that very night.  

We do not know how soon Herod’s soldiers arrived in Bethlehem to do their brutal murders, but Bethlehem is only about six miles from Jerusalem.  And the road to Egypt is a long one, which the Holy Family would have been traveling on foot, or by donkey at best.  Haste is important for saving the life of our Savior, and Joseph acts quickly.  

Earlier, the angel had told him to take Mary as his wife despite her pregnancy, “for the Child was begotten by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20), and “when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).  Later, the angel tells him not to resettle in Bethlehem, or anywhere in Judea, so he changes his original plan and takes the family to Galilee, to the town of Nazareth (Matthew 2:22-23), which must have been disruptive, even disappointing, but necessary for the Child’s protection.

He is a model, third, because he acts without discussion, argument, or questions.  In fact, Joseph never says a word in the Gospels.  In fact, in Sicilian tradition, he is known as “Joseph the Silent.”  This trait is related to his obedience.  Many times, people will do the right thing only after they have tried everything else first and found that their bad choices did not really help them, or they have argued with their parents, their supervisors, or their counselors (of whatever sort, including spiritual) and found their own arguments weak or self-serving, and only then do they reluctantly go along with those advising or instructing them.  

Imagine your son or daughter when told to clean a bedroom.  Joseph does not try to tell God (or the angel), “Do I have to?  But I told the guys I’d meet them,” much less, “This is crazy!  How am I supposed to believe this?”  Not a word; just action.  Perhaps silence was an important part of Joseph’s spirituality.  Perhaps it was silence that left him truly open to hearing what God was telling him:  the silence of prayer, the silence of reflection.  We all need more silence in our lives: less electronic distraction, less gossipy conversation, more room for God’s angel to speak to us.

Let us also note this about what St. Matthew tells us today:  as he does elsewhere in his Gospel, he brings out how this or that action “fulfills the prophets” (Matthew 2:15,23).  Matthew is seeing this by looking back at what happened and matching events against the Scriptures.  We would not say that Joseph consulted the Scriptures in advance.  But we would say there is a correlation between his choices, his actions, and the divine plan revealed in the Scriptures.  

The lesson for us in the 21st Century is to read, study, reflect on, pray over the Scriptures, the revealed Word of God, and try to discern what choices and what actions God would have us do, so that our lives may be in accord with His plan for us, so that, years from now, we might be able to look back and see how we fulfilled what He had mind.  Joseph’s obedience was the salvation of the Infant Jesus.  Our obedience to God’s Word is the key to our salvation.

The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, are put before us by the Church this weekend as a model for our families. We call them “The Holy Family” but that does not mean that they did not have problems. Just as every family has to face and endure problems and overcome them, or to put it another way, has to carry a cross, so also The Holy Family had to carry crosses. Their many crosses come to mind as we read the Scriptures.

We can easily imagine how misunderstood both Mary and Joseph must have been when Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Their story would never be believed. Even Mary herself had it very rough early in the pregnancy when Joseph was planning to divorce her before the angel intervened in a dream. When the time for Jesus’ delivery came it took place in an animals’ shelter since Bethlehem was already so crowded. Then the Family had to flee to Egypt as refugees because Jesus’ life was in danger due to Herod, in much the same way as refugees from war-torn countries are now entering many western countries.

Mary and Joseph suffered the awful experience of losing Jesus for three days when He was twelve years old and the only satisfaction they got from Him was that He had to be about His Father’s business.

After the family’s flight to Egypt and their return to Nazareth, we do not hear of Joseph anymore, so we presume that before Jesus began His public ministry in Galilee Joseph had died, the Holy Family suffering the greatest pain of all families, the pain of bereavement and separation through death.

Jesus’ public ministry must have taken its toll on Mary. Simeon had predicted in the Temple that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s soul. We can imagine one such occasion, as we read in Mark 3:21 that when Jesus returned to Nazareth one day His relatives came to take Him by force, convinced that He was out of His mind. Not a very pleasant experience for any family, no matter how holy.

There was also the pain caused by the rhyme made up about Jesus: “Behold a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34).

And there was the growing hostility to Jesus by the Jewish authorities that must have caused huge pain to both Mary and Jesus, especially as it became increasingly obvious that Jesus would have to pay for His mission by dying.

The saddest moment of all came when Mary watched Her Son die on the Cross. No parent should ever have to suffer the death of a child, especially in such violent circumstances. What parent expects their children to die before them? When a child dies, every parent understands and empathizes with the pain, sorrow, and grief that Mary experienced when she watched as her Son was nailed to and died upon the Cross in agony.

From the first moment that Mary is introduced to us she is presented as devoted to God; “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When she visited her relative Elizabeth, Elizabeth described her as a woman of faith; “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled (Luke 1:45) and Our Lady responded with her beautiful hymn praising God that we call the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), “My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Twice during the early chapters of Luke, we are told that Our Lady was a reflective woman, pondering on the word of God: “Mary kept all these things pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, see also 2:51).

When Joseph is first introduced we are told by Matthew that he is a “just man.” (Matthew 1:19).

When the angel told Joseph in a dream not to divorce Mary and take her as his wife, Matthew tells us that as soon as he woke up he did what the angel commanded him (Matthew 1:24). He was a man of immediate obedience to the word of God.

These are just some of the many challenges we see the Holy Family facing as we read the Gospels. What helped the family through all these tests was their prayer and faith just as prayer and faith help our families through difficulties. In the Gospels, we also see the prayer and faith of the Holy Family. We see the entire family in prayer together as they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years (Luke 2:41-52).

What kept the Holy Family together and sane throughout all these trials and crosses? The answer is ‘Love for each other and love for God’. Jesus’ love for Mary and Mary’s love for Jesus and the love they both had for God the Father was their rock and comfort. We see Jesus’ love for His mother when He was dying on the Cross and was worried about leaving her behind when He asked His close friend and disciple John to look after her, saying to Mary, ‘Woman behold your son’, and to John ‘behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27).

What holds families together also in times of difficulty is understanding and forgiveness. It is love which triumphs in the end, even if for a while love may have to take on a tough attitude and the form of some honest talking. When discipline needs to be given, if it is not given in love it is reduced to abuse. If ever our families fail in any way, it is because of a lack of love on someone’s part. Whenever our families are successful, it is because they are places of love, truth, and understanding.

I believe that the greatest threat facing families now is simply that we do not spend enough time together. We are so busy working or socializing or watching TV, or surfing the net, or texting on our cell phones that we have less and less time for each other. What a pity.

As I said, I believe one of the greatest threats facing families now is simply that we do not spend enough time together. Spending time together with the family is a way of showing our family that we love them. When we love our family, we want to sacrifice ourselves by spending time with them, and all the more so when we realize that by not spending time with them we are depriving them of our love and hurting them.

Families do not come about by accident. The family is part of God’s plan for us. God wants our families to be holy. The family is the basic unit of society and the Church; we could say the family is a little church. It is in the family that we first learn to communicate. It is in the family that we learn what love is. 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 first, we learn our values and what is good and bad. The future of humanity depends on the family because it is through families that society continues.

There are many attempts to destroy the family in our times but if the family will be destroyed in western society, the western world will crumble because all humanity comes from the family. There are many attempts today to redefine the family, but they do not reflect God’s plan for the family.

Apart from all the inspiration, we can draw from reflecting on the Holy Family, in other places Sacred Scripture tells us what God intends our families to be. In Matthew 19, Jesus says, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female…For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

In the letter to the Ephesians, there is beautiful teaching on marriage and family in chapter five. There we read again what Jesus said, “For this reason, a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesian 5:31).

But then there is a novel teaching in the letter as it says the love of husband and wife for one another is a reflection of the love of Christ for the Church (Ephesians 5:32). This is a great mystery, but one which is so beautiful and meaningful. The letter to the Ephesians says that if you want to know what a family should be like, just look at how Christ loves the Church. Christ gave His life in sacrifice on the Cross for the Church and that is how families are to be, loving each other to the end in a sacrificial way.

St. Paul goes on to give advice to husbands; they are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, handing himself over for her (Ephesians 5:25); in other words, husbands are to love their wives by giving up their lives for them, should that become necessary. The second piece of advice for husbands is similar, husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28).

The advice for wives to be subordinate to their husbands is unfortunately misunderstood; it is not saying the husband is master of his wife; no, not at all. The letter says as the Church is subordinate to Christ, wives to their husbands; in other words, as the Church becomes holy by being united with Christ, the husband’s relationship with his wife is to help her become holy. Husbands are to help their wives be holy.

When you read St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians properly, it becomes obvious that it is not at all saying husbands are masters over their wives because earlier in the chapter the letter said husbands and wives should submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and husbands are to love their wives to the end as Christ loved the Church.

All of this was obviously very radical teaching in its time and shows the depth of the Christian understanding of marriage and how God wants to elevate family life above society’s understanding of family to reflect the relationship and love of the Holy Trinity. It shows us, without any degree of doubt, that God Himself decreed what a family is to be

Sacred Scripture also gives advice for children. When a man asked Jesus what he should do, Jesus listed the commandments including the fourth commandment that children are to obey their parents, and said to him, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18-19). The letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:1) repeats the command that children honor their parents but also adds that fathers should not provoke their children to anger but bring them up under the Lord.

The family is not an accident. The family was not created by man, but by God Himself. The family is part of God’s plan. God wants your family to be the best it can possibly be and be the best place for the proper upbringing of children. God wants your family to be holy, as He Himself is holy.

The Holy Family faced many trials, challenges, and obstacles, as does every family, and they overcame them through prayer and faith. Our families also overcome challenges through prayer and faith, remaining united in love as did Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Let us pray during this Divine Liturgy that our families will conquer all difficulties through love for each other and faith in God and that they may emulate, in every way, the Holy Family of Nazareth.