Christmas - Holy Family Yr B (2018)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
“Just you wait until your father gets home…” I wonder if Jesus ever needed to be scolded or corrected. We know Jesus didn’t sin…but…does that mean He never got into trouble? That He never needed to be put in “time out”? I’m not sure… “Listen to your mother and take out the trash before you go play with your friends.” If Jesus had to grow and become strong and filled with wisdom, surely some of the same things that we go through in our families had to be commonplace in the Holy Family for those first years. They were a poor family, and for several years they were refugee immigrants living in a foreign land. Did the other children make fun of Jesus? Did He get His feelings hurt? How did Mary and Joseph love and nurture Him through the challenging and amazing moments?
I’m not a good enough theologian to have many of the answers about life in the Holy Family – but I do have lots of questions. How did Mary and Joseph guide Jesus as He came to a full understanding or awareness of who He was? Mary had some important answers – “Yes, Son – you are the Messiah. God is your Father in a way different from the rest of us.” But…did Jesus have questions about all that in His younger years? He was fully God, so certainly He had some awareness – but He was fully human, too – so, did Mary and Joseph have to help Him understand it ever more completely as He grew? At the very least, they had to parent Him through those quiet years where Scripture is silent. Dirty diapers. Scrapped knees. Learning to speak, learning to read. Practicing their faith.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were unlike any family there ever was – there’s no doubt about that. But there’s also absolutely no doubt that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were also in some ways exactly like every family. The Holy Family in many important ways was exactly like your family; like our parish family here at Ss. Peter & Paul. They didn’t have all the answers – though they did have the important answers. God’s plan unfolded itself in their lives in the slow and steady pace of life, sunrise-midday-sunset-night-repeat, day after day, year after year. Ordinary moments and extraordinary moments stringing together to weave a tapestry of human experience interwoven with the thread of the divine plan and person in every stitch.
And…we’re supposed to imitate them. All the prayers for the Mass today point us to that lesson, that moral, that priority for family life. Imitate the Holy Family. I see our families doing that. I see parents not pretending to have all the answers or be the expert on absolutely everything, who are willing to learn to serve Mass with their children – learning together, serving together, growing in faith together. I see parents faithfully serving the various ministries and efforts of our parish family together with their children, packing meals for Soups On Us, teaching CCD. I see families gathering together at our “Family Night Catechesis” events, learning together about the Mass, parents guiding the children and sometimes children guiding parents closer to Jesus Christ, becoming stronger in the faith, opening themselves to the call of authentic discipleship and friendship with the Lord. I see parents and teenagers struggling through the real-life of growing up, self-awareness, tough choices...
I think it’s things like that which make a family holy. Real life, with very little pretending. Acknowledging gaps in knowledge, a need to develop virtue, recognizing when the priorities of the world we live in have creeped in to overshadow the priorities of the world that is our home in heaven and striving to do better. All while holding tight and fast to the bond of love above all else. Disagreements, frustrations, mistakes, misunderstandings healed and held together in love. Letting go of the imaginary image of perfection to experience the perfection of living this life – this Christian life – authentically, willing to work together and move forward in what is and is true, rather than what is pretend.
Oh…I’m not blind. I know our families aren’t always doing this. We are, after all, imperfect families even as we strive to be holy families. But, little by little we’re continuing to “get it” – continuing to try, willing to admit we haven’t already got it figured all out. Seems to me that’s the centerpiece of the authentic holy family.
Pope Francis recently said something beautiful: “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. There’s a connection between what it means to be a holy family and what it means to be a holy parish, a holy Church. The first connection is love – the bond, the unity, the oneness that makes the family perfect. In this coming year, I hope we continue to be that kind of family at Ss. Peter & Paul – connected to one another above all else in love for one another and love for Jesus and the Church. The second connection is joy. Joy! Think of the joy you felt – I hope you felt – at seeing our worship space completed for our Christmas celebrations. Through all the twists and turns of the last year together, I hope we’ve grown together in both love and joy – and that we work hard to do that in the year to come.
Friends – family – the new year is upon us. There are so many exciting things on the horizon for us. Change and same. Expected and unexpected. Growth and expansion along with pruning and refocusing. As we round out our celebration of Christmas by celebrating the Holy Family and prepare for the year ahead, will you commit with me to being in our families and in our parish family a holy family. A family that doesn’t necessarily have all the answers, but nevertheless has the important answers fixed firmly in mind: love, joy, Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. A family that isn’t afraid to acknowledge what we don’t know and ask the questions that lead us to the answers. A family that is willing to name its opportunities for improvement as easily as we’re willing to name our strengths – and invest effort to work with both.
You’ll hear much more about who we are continuing to become in 2018 – you’ve heard it before and we’ll hear even more of it in the weeks and months to come. We are a family of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Eucharist and strengthened by the sacraments, eager to live life for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.
Can we make this the mission of your family and our parish family. Can we continue to become a holy family of holy families – filled with the joy of love working together to be friends and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes…we can. And, in Christ Jesus we will. Amen?
Holy Family…pray for us.