Hopefully your Christmas was blessed, holy, and healthy.
Unfortunately, I cannot say anything about my celebrations of Christmas since I am writing this article on the Friday before Christmas…hmm… no one taught me how to be a prophet when I was in the Seminary 😉
On this first Sunday after Christmas, we traditionally celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. I am always struck by the timing of this feast, especially this year. Why? Christmas is a time when a lot of us have started to overdose on family. Even if this Christmas looked a little bit different then before COVID. What I am saying is, that, some of us have had about as much “family” as we can take. We are challenged to look at what it means to be family. And then, this solemnity comes!!! Our eyes turn toward the nativity scene. Very often, especially during this time of year, we tend to sentimentalize the Holy Family – they become figures of plaster and paper, not flesh and blood. But we forget: they weren’t that different from us. They were holy, yes. But, they were also human.
The story of the Holy Family is the story of life not always turning out the way you expected. It’s the story of a teenage mother conceiving a child before she was married. It’s the story of an anxious father confronting scandal and planning on divorce. It’s the story of a family forced to become refugees, escaping Herod to Egypt, and living as immigrants. It’s the story of a missing child and days of anxious searching by his parents. It’s the story about Jesus, whose teaching was not well received in his own town and between his relatives. And not long after came his violent death – one his mother watched with helplessness and unimaginable sorrow.
This family was holy. But, it was also human. We need these reminders to understand our own families! We love our own families, but we also know that they are not perfect. And we know that at the same time, my family can be a blessing for me but also a burden.
We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. Someone once said: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead, let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law, and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” When our own family becomes a burden more than a blessing, and we find ourselves overwhelmed, we need to remember where we look today—to look toward the crib. There is our model for living: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But we need to see them in full, remembering the closeness of the cross. That was their life, and it’s ours too. Yet, through all their hardships, in a time of anxiety and difficulty, persecution and tragedy—a time very much like our own–they showed us how to be people of faith, people of forgiveness, and people of love. They show us, in other words, how to be holy in this upcoming 2021.
I will finish with the words from the Book of Nehemiah that I’d like to make as my New Year’s wishes for all of you and your families:
“The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Happy New Year 2021!!!
P.S. Thank you to Fr. Howard Vogan for the beautiful note in today’s bulletin