If all else fails turn to God and Family

Tom Bartolomeo
The Holy Family C 2013
Sirah 3: 2-7,12-14; Psalm 128;
Colossians 3: 12-23; Luke 2: 41-52
Reproduced with Permission

An article online in the Huffington Post caught my eye the other day, "1 Samuel: The Hell of Parenting". The writer was well versed in the biblical story of Hannah who was unable to bear children. She eventually turned to God asking God that should he grant her a son she would dedicate his life to God. Hanna became pregnant and kept her promise. Her son, Samuel, grew to become a great prophet in Israel guiding King David in his affairs of state. The author of the article understood Hanna's plight and then veered to the left of God's word and argued that 132 million children in the world today are orphaned because too many parents can not afford to support themselves and their children, that contraceptives would cure their plight and alleviate this social "injustice" in the world.

Why would anyone think that children are a burden? Where we once a burden to our parents? I would hope most of us are grateful that our parents thought enough of themselves to have been our parents bringing us to life. From Hanna's biblical perspective children were revered in society, signs of prosperity and standing in the community. The Psalmist, King Solomon, the thirteenth child of King David celebrated children:

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate, Psalm 127, 3-5.

More to the point, the Psalm begins, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." Husbands and wives today may labor in vain building a home without children. Not long ago fertility on the farm and in the home defined the "good life". While today a home may be a empty nest filled with too many possessions and too few children. Not only has contraception hollowed out too many homes it has increased infertility in the family. One of six couples today are infertile. That's what happens when we mess with nature.

One of our country's principle exports to the world are contraceptives and the promotion of childless same sex marriage as a condition for receiving foreign aid. If you want a rationale for no children than same sex marriage is the answer. There are, they say, too many starving children in the world particularly poor children. Is this how we define the holocaust in the Third Reich or "ethnic cleansing" in the former Bosnia or now the restriction of foreign aid to Uganda by the United Nations and our government because they will not sanction contraception, abortion and same sex marriage?

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the model God set in our world for us to emulate, the mutual support of mother, father and child facing the adversity of world which is not our permanent home. Five days ago at Christmas we visited with joy the astonishing birth of our Savior to a poor insignificant family who could not find a hospitable place for Mary to have her child, a family which later had to flee for their lives because a king feared their child would someday, perhaps, usurp his tenuous authority under the rule of the Roman Empire. A family which had to set roots in a foreign land, unaccustomed to its language and customs and somehow make a living there. Still, Mary and Joseph had no regrets. They had faith and some gold and precious spices from some wise men providentially sent by God to pay their way. Besides they had the joy of caring for the Messiah. (How wonderfully God reveals himself and guides us in our children--living lives larger than ourselves, individually). They were not dissuaded by the difficulties they endured as a family. They bore in their child their personal happiness, individually and as a whole, and our future salvation, hope and happiness.

If a spouse acknowledges as did Adam that his or her spouse is truly "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" how is their child not a child of their bone and flesh together? Most parents would, I believe, in any dire circumstance willingly and happily sacrifice anything they owned for the life of their child even in the extreme sacrifice of their own lives. Few parents would think twice about donating blood for their child or a kidney if called upon. They would in effect accept these hardships as payment for their own lives enlarged and extended into succeeding generations in obedience to both God and nature's law, "increase and multiply". Anything contrary to this vitiates the life we received from God and our reason for being and God's reason for our being. Open always to life in our marital relations, open always to love. Contraception separates life from love for a fleeting pleasure or satisfaction, empty and childless. When pleasure, his or her's, is the prime and overriding consideration we know we are dying a slow extinction. Many nations today are literally dying off. Japan's and Russia's birth rate is .6 percent when 2.1 percent is required just to maintain their current populations. Our country's birth rate has fallen below 1.9 percent and our numbers have only grown through immigration, many of whom arrived here with little or nothing and yet have had a higher birth rate than those of us who have settled here living the American Dream or so we think. And for children born outside of marriage we can not be surprised that they often fare badly. Last Friday we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Would it have been better that they had not been born and not be saints in heaven today? And whose children or children-to-be would not be born for heaven?

So let me share this secret with you. Families with more than a couple of children may actually be happier than families with less children even in poverty. And pray Jesus, Mary and Joseph that their children may have many grandchildren and many other great grandchildren as you should encourage them. What a wonderful Christmas get-together that would be! For many and sadly the "children are expensive" rationale rules. And setting aside that many poor people survive happily in poverty Jesus did teach , "Blessed are the poor." The poor have more reason to love what they have, each other. Recall what Solomon (whose gold mines are legend) said, his children were "a gift of the Lord . . . Like arrows in the hand of a warrior . . . How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them".

Examine, too, how the Holy Family survived with only one bread-winner in the family allowing Mary to care for the home and contribute to the schooling of Jesus while Joseph taught Jesus his trade as a carpenter. Mary, as many other woman before our industrialized and computerized age, had a "kitchen garden", prepared the family's meals and manufactured the family's clothing. Today's necessities did not exist then, things we may know more ' what they are not ' than what they are, "wireless" things, for instance. A century ago they were "horseless" things until they redefined our lives as auto-mobile-things which we still measure in horse power. Things everyone has to have to get to work to earn a salary to pay for the horseless carriages and hay, insurance, tolls and parking so we can travel to work and get home late for dinner - not including, by the way, meals away from home when traveling, the depreciation, tires, oil changes, repairs, etc., etc. And at the end of the day our reward--a quiet empty house, a remote control and some beguiling cable entertainment?

Let me change lanes and make a detour for a moment to make a confession. The only company I personally really enjoy are children's. They have just too few possessions to be attached to or obsessive compulsions and disguises. That may come later. Were I not a priest - I am happy to be talking to children of another age set - I would have a dozen children, and if I was too late I would adopt. Isn't that what God did? He sent his only son to become man so he could adopt all of us. Were we "too expensive"? Thank God! He did not think we were "too expensive."