Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 28 December 2014 – All in the Family


Holy Family B – 28 December 2014 – All in the Family

Scriptures for the day.

If the birth of Jesus Christ is such a pivotal event why isn’t the story recorded in all four gospels? Only Matthew and Luke write about it and they do not agree on the details. For example Matthew used astronomers (magi) who were Gentiles to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Luke employed angels and Jewish shepherds and the prophets in today’s gospel.

Matthew writes about the flight into Egypt to avoid Herod’s massacre of infant boys. Luke does not. Matthew also believed Mary and Joseph lived in Bethlehem. Luke thought Nazareth was their home town so he had to figure out a way to get them to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. To do so he created the census story which is not historically accurate.

To get the holy family from Bethlehem to Jerusalem Luke inserts the story we heard this morning. Based on the law, the presentation and circumcision of Jesus had to happen within eight days of his birth.

Although we cannot be sure of the routes, if you add up all the miles the holy family traveled in these nativity stories alone (Nazareth to Bethlehem, to somewhere in Egypt, back to Nazareth and then to Jerusalem) it would be like walking from Albany, NY to Raleigh, NC and back!

But let’s not worry about the details of these stories. Rather, what lessons might we learn from them? After all, today’s celebration is about the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Neither Matthew and Luke attempt to define the word family. In the Mediterranean culture at that time there would have been many interpretations.

Both evangelists drew upon the prophecies found in the Hebrew bible in writing their stories. They taught that Jesus was the son of God, the promised savior; that the birth was witnessed and proclaimed by diverse groups (wealthy and poor) and that this incarnation, this revelation of God, was intended not just for the benefit of the Roman Empire or only the Jews but all of humanity everywhere. [1]

Early this past fall we heard about the Synod of Bishops that focussed on the family and evangelization. In his homily at the end of the Synod Pope Francis said word “synod” actually means “journeying together.” He called the Synod an experience in which the participants “felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.” [2]

In the Synod’s final report (Relatio Synodi) — we read “It is a matter of re-thinking with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family.” [3]

That synod was a prelude to the worldwide meeting on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world scheduled for next October 2015. To prepare for the meeting the Vatican just issued forty-six questions. The goal is to encourage bishops, when addressing diverse issues regarding family life, to focus on pastoral sensitivity rather than solely on the application of doctrine. [4]

The second reading today (from Paul to the Colossians) serves as a good foundation for “pastoral sensitivity.” Show heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience toward one another.

Here is one of the questions listed by the Vatican. “How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God and how can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those which are wounded and fragile?” (No. 20)

While stressing the beauty of successful marriages and solid family life the synod also seeks new directions regarding other pressing issues about human relationships. These would include family units with gay and lesbian members, divorced and remarried couples as well as how to create a culture in favor of life just to name a few.

The birth of Jesus began a new chapter in the history of humanity and it occurred within a family. On this feast of the holy family let us celebrate the wonderful relationships in our lives ever seeking new ways to sustain others who are searching for uncompromising support.


1. Brown, R. An Adult Christ at Christmas. (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press) 1978, 25 ff.

2. Francis. Homily at the closing of the Synod on the Family. 19 October 2014

3. “Relatio Synodi” The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization” (5-19 October 2014) No. 4



Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Homily – 28 December 2014 – All in the Family

  1. Although I know that I will hear a good homily a little later today, given the readings, I knew that I had to read your homily for this day. Thank you for repositioning the idea of synod as journey, and the emphasis on the point that one is beyond the mercy of God.


  2. I continue to be grateful for your teachings about new insights into Scripture and connecting it to our lived realities. You help mr to make a bridge from past to present that prods me to more deeply connect the meaning to our times. Bridging the Feast of the Holy Family to the Synod is such a gift to our church today! And thanks for the 46 questions! Safe travels and enjoy a good show in Vegas🎄😄


  3. I never thought before of Jesus “working for John the Baptist”…. A number of things I’m reading right now are pushing me to see Jesus with new eyes. Like WHEN did he have a sense of his own divinity? (And can we take in our own divinity?) And – in the case of working FOR John – was it the “Behold the Lamb” comment of evangelist John’s gospel (and the dove’s descent) that helped that understanding of his divinity kick in? Was it the beheading as you mention that pushed him into his true ministry? James Carroll’s new book Christ Actually partly focuses on how we never have truly understood Jesus’ Jewish roots and how we need to in order to untiea the church’s history of anti-semitism. Vat II alone sure hasn’t. Always fun doing all this re-penting (thinking). Thanks.


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