Today is the last Sunday of the year. It is a good time for us to reflect on our successes, failures, and on our times of joy and sadness — and then to look ahead with hope and expectation to the possibilities of the coming year, 2019!

Many families went through different tragedies this year — like the death of a loved one, the pain and suffering of illness, or the loss of a job. Others have experienced separation or divorce, or the distance of children. Today, many families experience a lot of anxieties, conflicts, and problems. Mary and Joseph also went through all kinds of sufferings and difficult situations; they were even facing the loss of their own child Jesus. However, Mary and Joseph listened to the angel of the Lord and followed God’s directions.

Joseph and Mary gave us the inspiration that when we face difficulties and problems in our families, we can listen to God and follow God’s directions. A holy and loving family is not one in which trials do not happen, but one in which the members work together with love and compassion. The family becomes holy when we keep God as the treasure in our homes. The family becomes holy when we treat each other with respect and forgiveness. The family becomes holy when we make time to listen and to learn from one another. If there is no sacrifice for one another, there is no holy family. Each family is called to be a holy family not a “perfect” family. We can bring respect, mutual understanding, and self-sacrifice to the foundation of the family.

Pope Francis said about families, “In family life, we are committed to respect each other, to heal the wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships, and to bear one another’s burdens.” The Pope continued by saying that being part of a family means being faithful to our everyday lives and to loving each other on our best days and worst days.

A senior judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom after their marriage and the judge said, “Make your family a confessional rather than a courtroom.” If the husband and wife start arguing with each other like attorneys in all matters to justify their behaviors, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and wife behave as they are in the confessional, they are ready to admit to each other their mistakes and correct each other. Then the family becomes a heavenly one.

Our celebration today calls us to follow the model of the Holy Family. Holy families do not just happen. They are something we consciously create, by all members working together and persisting in tough times. God gave us our families as gifts and legacies. We are called to love, cherish, and to constantly build them up, even if they are imperfect and messy.

Let us pray during this Holy Mass, for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to protect our families from all dangers. We all know that only mutual love and acceptance of responsibilities can save them, with the help of God. Let us pray also for all families, especially for those with serious problems, so that God will guide them and help them to resolve their problems in a Christian way.