Sirach 3. 2-6, 12-14 Psalm 128. 1 – 5 Col 3. 12 – 21 Luke 2. 41 - 52
“God so loved the world…..” as to want union with all of creation, including us. The mystery of the Incarnation, on which we have been focused this week, basically celebrates the fact that God became flesh so that God could be most intimately united with creation. God first becomes flesh as we all do, as a baby, born into a family, an ordinary family. The readings today all speak of the ordinariness of family in different ways and thus speak of family holiness. Family life and our individual lives are holy in their ordinariness/ mundane-ness. This includes activities like cooking, cleaning up, going to work, doing my homework, driving to practice at 5:00 am, listening to every detail of what happened at school, or the game or ,,, etc., etc., etc. Both Sirach and Paul in Colossians speak of the qualities of a holy life: honoring our elders/ parents, relating to one another with gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. He tells us to let the peace of Christ control our hearts and to be quite forthright and honest in facing tensions and struggles when they come along…and they do come!
Our liturgical celebrations this week have taken us from a newly –pregnant Mary visiting family (Elizabeth), to today’s Gospel when a twelve-year-old Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem just speaking with the elders. Whew! That’s a lot of change in seven days! Maybe we can take time in the next week or so to ponder the “hidden years” a bit…Mary nursing and changing Jesus…awake often in those first months…with Joseph, teaching Jesus to walk, to hold a spoon…even teaching him about God and even teaching him how to pray! Can we imagine Jesus as a young boy learning to play games with other boys…banging up his knee…learning how to handle skirmishes…Tradition holds that Jesus lost his Dad and had the experience of grieving as well as concern for his widowed Mother. How difficult it must have been for Mary when the time came for Jesus to set out announcing God’s wonderful love – how lonely her “empty-nest” must have felt. In pondering these very normal family experiences, we may come to better understand that our families’ experiences are not all that different from those of this family and that my family is also holy – or at least, by grace, well on the way!
It seems that our sense of the Joseph-Mary-Jesus family can be impacted by culture, artistic representations, etc. We live in a culture with a sense of the nuclear family with lots of privacy and not seeing neighbors very often – especially when we’re hibernating in winter! Artistic renditions of the holy family usually depict a scene that is neat and clean and everyone has a halo. While this is one way of trying to depict holiness, would we not feel more at home if we visited the holy family and found Mary, covered with flour, getting bread out of the oven and Jesus and Joseph working on homework or finishing a cabinet for a customer? Would this scene help us better understand that we find holiness in the ordinariness of our own lives? In some cultures, family means every aunt, uncle, cousins five times removed – or even the whole village. A priest from Ghana, with whom I studied, called his brother’s wife, his wife since they have no word for sister-in-law. There are also many ways that people form bonds that are so close, they may be stronger than those of family. Whatever the situation, the qualities mentioned in today’s readings are essential to our relationships and to holiness.
Unfortunately, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family this year, the media make us painfully aware of tragic family situations which do not speak of holiness: a local young mother of three who was set ablaze this week by her boyfriend; families without food or healthcare; children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at our Southern border; young adult children who are dying from Opioids, as well as their grieving parents; children who leave home and become victims of human trafficking; victims of domestic abuse as well as sexual abuse within the family. Let us fight to end government policies that are destructive to families and may we find ways to be of assistance to families that are experiencing life-threatening situations. Holy Family, come to their aid.
-Sister Marian Baumler, SSMN
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