December 29th – The Holy Family
Merry Christmas to you, my dear friends in Christ, on this 5th Day of Christmas! Before I do or say anything else, please let me say, “Thank You,” to all of you for your cards, prayers, and gifts this Christmas. But even more than that, “Thank You” for all that you mean to our parish family.
On this feast of the Holy Family, St. Paul offers us some good advice with regard to family life: 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. When pressed, even sibling rivals will concede that they love one another. Why, then, can we not live in love always? There are several challenges to familial love in our contemporary American society.
Some have said that familiarity breeds contempt. I think, however, that it’s not familiarity, but rather presumption. When we take one another for granted, we lose that sense of respect and awe that each member of our family deserves. This is one of the lessons of Christmas: that each person (especially the most fragile and ‘useless’) is a sacrament – a visible sign of the invisible reality of God’s presence among us – precious and sacred in God’s eyes. Perhaps we might consciously go out of our way to say “Thank you” to someone in our family today – as a way to remind ourselves not to take one another for granted.
Another great American idol that would challenge familial love is our excessive individualism and relativism. If love is the bond of perfection, then this individualism would be the solvent that dissolves this bond. I’m not saying that family members shouldn’t have their own pursuits and interests. On the contrary, I’m saying that family prayer time, the family dinner table, Sunday Mass, and other family events are the times and opportunities to foster each member’s personality within the stable structure of the family.
May we take our lead from the Holy Family: receptive, obedient, and responsive to God’s Word and God’s plan for our lives. Mary was receptive to God’s plan: May it be done to me according to Your Word. Jesus was obedient even to the point of death. And Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, was responsive. He listened to what the Lord asked of him, and led his family out of danger.
The dangers to our families might be more subtle than kings and rulers seeking to kill us, but that only makes them all the more dangerous. Perhaps, though, we might follow Joseph – doing what the Lord asks of us. O God, Who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of Your House, delight one day in eternal rewards.
Peace (and a continued blessed Christmas) to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,