Something to live for, not just to live on | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Dec. 30—Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128, Response: Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways. Colossians 3; 12-21; Luke 2: 41-52

One of the primary missions of the family is to help its members, especially the younger ones, discover their mission. Today’s Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, delivers this message clearly.

This story in the life of Christ, the hidden years, is one of two—in between the narratives of his birth and his baptism, the other being Christ’s Presentation in the Temple. Both narratives reveal the mission of the child Jesus. The Presentation reveals his mission to his parents, and today’s Gospel shows us Christ’s initial awareness of this.

The primary mission of the family, to nurture dreams and the sense of mission of its members, makes the family the first and most crucial formation community of a young person.

For our reflections, let us go back to the “formula” of Fr. Hans Kung, SJ, on the process of people having meaningful lives: Give them something to live on, something to live for, and something to die for.


Giving them something to live on is basic. We often hear parents say that the most important legacy they can give to their children is a good education, which is very much in line with this first point.

This is giving them their basic material needs and training in order to survive. But it’s also giving them love and guidance, the mentoring that they will need in order to have the wisdom and character to live on later in life.

It is this latter element of something to live on that transitions this formation process into something to live for, the sense of purpose and mission. It is not simply providing for material needs that is important, but more so, I believe, the environment of care and love.

Chris Lowney, in his book “Heroic Leadership,” comes to the conclusion that it is in environments of care and respect, of greater love than fear, combined with opportunities for people to achieve their full human potential, that bring so much good into the world.

Having material resources will always help, but these are not the end-all or be-all of having something to live on. Having enough material resources and an abundance of support, care and love is the gold standard. The latter can compensate for the scarcity of the former, but not vice-versa.

In Ateneo de Manila High School back in the mid-’90s, we started a strong home-school partnership program and a family interview program that involved the parents in the formation of their sons. Anchored on the Profile of the Graduate at Graduation, or what is to this day known as the 5Cs, we tried hard to live this out.

Planting the seeds

This was almost 25 years ago. To this day when I meet my old students, who now have families of their own, they fondly recall those years and the 5Cs. It can be done, to plant the seeds of “something to live on and live for,” and see the fruits decades later.

Weekly family prayer time and the church, through Sunday Mass, became a way of forming the family into a community. Parents gave feedback that after the Mass, their topic of conversation over lunch would be the priest’s homily.

Furthermore, their children looked forward to Sunday Mass. Aside from the homily, I think the sense of community helped, since it was the same congregation who came every Sunday. We started with only around 80 persons.

Through the years, we grew, and after around five years, we had a regular congregation of 200 to 250, and growing. Unfortunately, we had to stop.

The point is, we need to pay more attention to building our families into communities of support, care and love, with a special focus on school and church.

If I may be blunt, schools must shape up to take formation and home-school partnerships more seriously, and not simply put nice vision-mission statements on posters inside every classroom.

We had a good start 24 years ago, and were doing very well for half a decade, until school politics derailed it. We saw some of the ill effects of this derailment in a recent incident in the same school. I am praying that our small, budding church community will not suffer the same fate.

The family is one of our greatest hopes to build or rebuild a world that is more compassionate and loving, a world that is aligned with the vision of God’s Kingdom, one of justice, peace and love.

Today, we make this special prayer to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. –CONTRIBUTED