The Holy Family, Year C

We have two beautiful homilies by Father Hanly for The Holy Family, Year C: “Love Begins In The Family” and “An End To Childhood.”

Two Homilies:

Love Begins In The Family

Love Begins In The Family

In this wonderful homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Year C, Father talks about the importance of the family.

Readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

  • First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
  • Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21
  • Gospel: Luke 2:41-52



I think it was Bernard Shaw, the Irish writer and playwright, who once said that youth is such a wonderful time, it’s too bad it’s wasted on young people.

Nobody’s smiling. But it’s true, we probably don’t appreciate what we have. The youth in its very fleeting days complain about it and think all kinds of things that are not always positive but negative, and yet, in it all, when we look back, we think, “It was a very good time.”

The same, I think, can be said about families. You know, when you’re in a family and you’re growing up in a family, sometimes you feel that you’d like to escape.

Apparently Jesus had a bit of that feeling when he stayed in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it, and they went home and had to come back searching three days before they found him in the temple.

But I’m sure you’ve had the feeling, at least I had when I was a child, I was always going to run away from home.

I was going to run away from home, even though my father was a lovely man, and my mother was a very hard working and lovely lady, and my sisters were not so bad either, my older and my younger sister.

But there was something. I kept saying, “I’ve got to get out of here.” But I promised myself I would not run away from home until I got all my Christmas presents. (Congregation laughs.) And then there was enough in the Christmas presents to keep me there for a while.

The family is very special. The family is not appreciated. The family is probably thought about in great nostalgic feelings around Christmas time.

Some of the memories can be very joyful, when you’re a little child and Christmas was dazzling with magic.

And some, it could be very sad: if your parents have passed away, or if someone you love and is very dear in the family has gone home to God, or some other kind of crisis has affected the family, trying to labour through difficult times, making difficult decisions, and frightened, perhaps, of the future.

But when those days pass and we get old, as I get old, I think back and say, “Well, it was a very good time,” even though there was the Great Depression, there were wars and rumours of wars, and crisis, and the world seemed to be falling apart every other Tuesday.

Still, in all, when you look back, you say into your family, no matter how humble it was, how far away it was, “It was a very good time.”

It always used to amuse me that…

I was assigned to Wah Fu Chuen, the housing estate, many years ago. I was there for about ten to twelve years.

And, as you know, in those days it was one room per family. Seven, ten, it doesn’t matter how many, you just had that one room and that was the only thing they gave you was a room.

And it was very hard. People were working maybe twelve hours, twenty hours, or fifteen hours a day. Everybody seemed to be working hard.

And yet when I go back there and talk to the young people who are now married and have children and I say to them, “What was the happiest time of your life?” do you know what they say?

“Wah Fu Chuen in the old days.”

Why is that?

Well, because the secret is that when God decided to become a human being, he decided to come as a member of a family.

When we look at Christmas, we’re looking at a little child, a helpless child who needs his mummy and he needs his father and he needs all kinds of things.

And this is God. This is God Himself. This is God the creator of the world. This is God who could change the whole world in an inkling if he so willed it.

But instead what he decided to do was to become a little helpless child and live as an ordinary human being, growing up, making the journeys to Jerusalem and home, twelve years old and being amazed at the temple, and being comfortable enough there to stay there, knowing that his Father was very special in this place.

And we say to ourselves, why God did this.

And then I think people understand that at the root of a family is love. And God came to show us that this is the way you learn to love.

You learn to place yourself in the hands of others. You learn to know your need for God, know your need for each other, know your need for the people that populate your neighbourhood, those that are all around you. You need them and the great hunger in your heart to feel love will only come from them.

God is not popping love out of the sky like rain. You will find Him, though, in a family, because the birth of the Saviour in a family consecrates the family. It makes the family very important.

You say, “Oh no, the community is very important.”

No, the community is very important to organise things like schools and stuff like that. But a community has no heart, a community has no soul.

But, if you’re looking for love, it will begin in the family.

And any love that the community might have, has been born in your hearts as you came into the world as a little child, were held very closely, with great care, by your mother and your father and the people around you.

That is the heart of Christmas.

Jesus wants us to know that when we think that we are really someone useless, not as talented as we’d like to be, maybe we’ll never be famous like the celebrities, maybe we’ll never even be rich like everybody else seems to be rich, we know that deep down inside, we are what we are, made holy and sacred.

God Himself has given us life and He has done it in the only way that it should be done. He gives us life in a family that we might understand that if we are to find God we must not look up in the clouds, we must look into the family.

And this is what Jesus teaches us. You’re my brothers and sisters. We are one family, one family under God.

And so this is how we become a community. But you must bring with it a weakness and a need for others, and a need for sharing and a need for caring.

And where are you going to find the object of that?

In all the others who are searching the world for a reason, a purpose, a meaning, a significance, something that makes us ourselves, not because we deserve it, not because we have to have it, not because God is so happy to give it to us.

It is His free love, because we deserve it. For God does not make garbage. God only makes wonderful loving human beings.

And when He makes them He never leaves them. And when He never leaves them, He is with them.

And when He is with them in times of difficulty, in times of pain, in times of sorrow, He is also there in times of celebration, in times of greatness, in times when the world seems like a wonderful, fine and lovely place to be.

But you will also find Him, ultimately, on the cross. And the cross is God saying, “You must love and learn to love. And when you fail, rise again, and try again to love.”

Because, ultimately, when Jesus is on the cross, everything is taken away from him. What he says to his Father is: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” And to God Himself he says, “And you must forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And, suddenly, there is the ultimate triumph of love, the little baby in Bethlehem who now comes forth as the Saviour of the world.

So let us rejoice on this Holy Family Sunday and look again at all the members of our family.

You know, the family is the only place that they have to take you back no matter where you’ve gone and what you’ve done.

And this is because God has chosen the most sacred institution, which is the family.

We must honour it, we must support it, we must learn to forgive in it, we must learn how to love in it. We must learn how to care for the things that really matter.

And this is what Jesus has given us.

The little child, the helpless child, almost hopeless little child, of Bethlehem is offering us the whole world.

An End To Childhood

An End To Childhood

In this beautiful homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Year C, Father Hanly looks at what is really an end to Jesus’ childhood and helps us understand what is to come next.

Readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

  • First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
  • Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21
  • Gospel: Luke 2:41-52



This is a very famous reading of the Gospel.

It’s about Jesus, of course, and his stepfather and his mother going with a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem. And on the way back, for some reason or other, Jesus went lost.

You wonder what could that be? I mean, it’s okay to get lost for a few hours – everybody’s been lost – but to be lost for three days without anybody knowing anything about it?

And, of course, our sympathy is very much with the mother and father, even though it’s Jesus the child who we have learned to fall in love with at Christmas.

And now we see the end to that childhood. For that’s what it is for Jesus: it’s an end to childhood. He’s twelve years old. He’s been Bar Mitzvahed. He has become, among his own tribes and people, he has become an adult and must take an adult’s share of the work.

At the same time, to do that, this sudden gesture of going into the temple, his Father’s house… You notice he calls it “my Father’s house.” “Did you not know, my mother, that I must be in my Father’s house.”

He wasn’t talking about geography, he was talking about an assertion that he is now a man and his mission has opened before him.

But his mother and his stepfather were not really buying this. And so what happened was, when they saw him, Mary, especially, was quite angry at him. “How could you do this to us? Three days!”

Now it’s days that they were searching around for him. And Jesus said to her, “I must be in my Father’s house.”

You know the translation for that is, of course, “I must be about my Father’s business.”

And this got to be a little bit of a confrontation.

And that’s the writer Luke, Luke who was St Paul’s favourite. Luke is the only non-Jew that ever had anything put into the Old or New Testament from the Jewish and from the modern Bibles, so he was kind of important.

And this would be his kind of story, for Luke believes that God is walking with us all the time, that God is there and, occasionally, (inaudible) misunderstandings of this, that and the other thing.


“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

Jesus is the Son of God and his mother was saying, “You’re hurting your father’s feelings. Back off. Really he deserves more.”

And Joseph does. Whenever you see him in the Bethlehem scene he is worrying. I don’t know if you’ve noticed how when you look at all the little statuettes, but Joseph is the one who is looking up at the sky. He’s wondering what’s going to happen next.

Because for Mary, Mary was an incredible person, she could see (inaudible), so she was really something special.

And yet the wonderful thing about Mary was she defended her husband over her son. Think of that now. Because sometimes mothers take their son’s side even if it is against the father.

But anyhow, what happens now is a very sudden change. “Why have you done this?”

“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

And neither of them understood. And it says right away, no giving us reason, rhyme or anything.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

That’s a terrible place. I mean, he’s supposed to be in a sense the Son of God and here he’s off to Nazareth. He’s been through enough trouble.

and was obedient to them;

Now, there’s the line. We don’t like that word “obedience.” We like our freedom, and we have to have explanations before we do anything. We have to have a long list of why this should not be done to me just to get somebody to do something quite simple.

This is an illusion. In God’s world this stuff is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what we think. It doesn’t matter what we feel. Think of that now. It doesn’t matter what we think and what we feel and what we want. It matters to us.

But in God’s world there’s only one reality. You give of yourself, that’s it.

When you come to go with God, He doesn’t say, “Oh come, nice and happy. I hope you enjoy yourself and fit in here very nicely.”

When you walk with God, He says, “Come, follow me.”

You follow Him and He says, “You are God’s now. You belong to God.” You don’t belong to all this. You belong to God and you must remember that.


Because a man doesn’t die on the cross all alone by himself unless he has called upon some basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, some basic understanding of what it means to self-sacrifice and love people.

And it’s the only thing that he came for, and it’s the only thing that he would hold onto, and it was the only thing at the end that he would turn and he would say, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

And so this is the beginning of a great struggle for the rest of Jesus’ life. It’s the beginning.

And how does it begin?

Asserting himself, yes. Demanding himself, no. For after the assertion, he stays in that little crummy village with nothing going on, nothing to entertain anyone that would be the Son of God. He stays in that village for thirty years, thirty years! And then he goes out for only three more.

And this is Jesus as we know him.

And it begins, if you notice,

“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand

It doesn’t say they refused – they did not understand. And he understood, but they didn’t.

And so he said to them…

Well, what he said to them we do not know.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother

being a very wise lady, she didn’t say, “Thank you, I deserve that,” and say, “Oh I’m glad you came home and you didn’t stay up there with all those important people.” She just

kept all these things in her heart.

that’s all.

And she mulled over it and she thought about it.

And she began to realise that this baby, this one who was now a young man, is something that we don’t know. They didn’t know where he was or what he came from.

And that’s wonderful.

Why is it wonderful?

Because that’s our life. We think it is so easy for all these people (inaudible).

But it had nothing to do with that.

It’s trying to discover the invasion of God to humanity, what it meant. And that’s what is an incredible mystery. A mystery that would put Mary herself through agony after agony after agony, wondering and waiting and watching.

But one thing she had, she believed in the angel and she believed in God and she believed in herself.

So this little simple, hardly even noticing what has happened, was a turning point in Jesus.

He is now the Messiah, the one who will change the world.

He will now go out and look for people to follow him.

And what kind of people?

Well, you know, if it was us, we’d pick out all the smart people, the intelligent ones, the fancy ones, the rich ones.

And he goes out and he finds the poorest of the poor, the poor fishermen.

And what is he going to do?

He is going to change the world. The world will never be the same, and it is never the same.

This is a wonderful day. Why?

Because we celebrate this episode as the end of Jesus’ childhood.

But it’s a great end of his childhood. He loves his mother. He admires and loves his father. He gathers a kind of an aura about him of kindness.

And then I would like you to read now what he expects of them. Let’s see if I can find it here. I read from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians. It was the Second Reading today. Listen carefully. Paul is talking.

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Merry Christmas!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

FAQ for Homily for The Holy Family, Year C

When is The Holy Family, Year C, in 2024?29th December 2024
What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for The Holy Family, Year C?"Love Begins In The Family" and "An End To Childhood"
What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle?
Mary, Mother of God, Year C
Who was Father Hanly?Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary
How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title

Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for The Holy Family, Year C

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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2023), please contact us for permission.

Father Hanly's sermon for The Holy Family, Year C, "Love Begins In The Family" was delivered on 27th December 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for The Holy Family, Year C, "An End To Childhood" was delivered on 30th December 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.

We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.

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