One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas Season is to sit in front of the Christmas tree and look at the lights along with the decorations and think about where each of them came from. The most special ones are from family and friends over the years and speak to those relationships, for that is really, what Christmas is all about—relationships. And of course, the primary relationship is between God and us and God’s generosity in becoming one-with-us, Emmanuel!
We name today, “Holy Family Sunday” in deference to the earthly family of Jesus—Mary and Joseph and more than likely, other children who came to this couple due to the love they shared with and for each other. Jesus, our brother, most assuredly, was raised within a family of much love and caring to have allowed him to give back so much love to the world in which he lived and grew “in wisdom and grace.” Nothing comes from nothing,” an old movie line goes.
This Sunday is for families because really, all families are holy, or at least have the possibility of being, “holy.” I would dare say, most, if not all families begin with love, because that is what is best in all of us—we are, in fact, hard-wired for this best of gifts. Life sometimes takes families in different directions, but at their beginnings, love is there.
Love isn’t always easy, either within families, or within the greater world and that is why, as we talked about on Christmas Eve, it is so important to live, “in the present.” This week’s Scriptures do, in fact, call us to do just that—live in the present. In the best of times—we can do what Sirach asks in regard to caring for our families—showing respect, kindness, love, understanding and mercy. As we attempt to live in the present, it will mean that we have to let go of past hurts and just keep looking and reaching out toward the good, and expecting to see the good in those that we may have difficulties with in life. The importance of the past is to learn from it, taking its lessons into the present where we can effect change.
Our families, for good or bad, have a deep effect on each of us, for this is where we came from. Most parents love their children fiercely and in the best of times, parents let their children know of their love for them. In some cultures, it was thought that letting children know this one special truth, that their parents love them, would in fact, spoil them. In actuality, the opposite is really true—the “not telling,” or showing the love, dampens the relationship. We are each in need of knowing that we are loved, that we make a difference, and today might be a good day, to let those closest to us know of our love, and especially if we haven’t done it in a while.
Paul tells us beautifully today, in his letter to the Colossians, what this love looks like: clothing yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Each of us friends, have these gifts, because each of us came from God and God, we know, is good. Anything we encounter in life that is not good, is not of God.
This past week, Robert and I viewed the movie, The Big Short which is basically the story of the 2007 economic housing bubble collapse. The piece that I was struck with in the telling of this tale was the greed that was operative in so many banks and money-lending organizations at this time. Greed became infectious and the more one had, the more one wanted and the moral compass within some humans that spoke of treating others fairly, was thrown to the wind.
Paul continues in his letter today speaking of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, saying that over this, we must put on love, which binds the rest and makes them perfect. He also instructs us to be thankful and to do whatever we do, in Jesus’ name. Think what a different world it would be if we did everything in Jesus’ name! There would be much that we would think twice about doing! Finally, Paul cautions us to take our relationships seriously—couples in love should avoid bitterness; if we are blessed with children; we shouldn’t nag them, less they lose heart.
Recently, I was reading ten suggestions for the New Year from Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine. I was struck by his first suggestion—that we who claim to be “Christian,” or followers of a different religious group, would basically take what we believe and hold it in one hand, and the newspaper ( or our world) in the other. For us, that would mean, the words and actions of our brother, Jesus must be in our thoughts, the very fiber of our beings and every action we do must reflect that memory. The acronym, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) is a question that should always be close in our consciousness as we live our lives.
Our readings for this Holy Family Sunday conclude today with the beautiful gospel from Luke telling the story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem as prescribed by the law. So what should this story tell us? First, it tells us that Joseph and Mary followed the dictates of the law that guided their lives. God had been faithful and it was their place to be faithful too!
Secondly, it is important for us to remember the context within which this gospel took place—Mary and Joseph and the baby were, “on the run” as the baby’s life was in danger from one who was into his power and control, yet they made the decision that this point of righteousness must be done. Presenting Jesus at the temple was a must and it was within that action that their very life’s purposes were confirmed—this child put into their safe-keeping, was the “Messiah of God,” as was proclaimed by Simeon and Anna.
As we reflect on the lives of Mary and Joseph; it seems logical that there must have been times in the everyday-ness of life that they doubted all that was ahead of their sweet baby, so this confirmation was so important and one that, as Scripture says, Mary “would treasure in her heart.’
The more we can allow these Scriptures to come alive for us, the more the stories will affect us and allow us to live in like manner. There will be times in all of our lives that we will doubt God’s presence much like Mary and Joseph doubted, but that is the time for us to go deeper, to remember all that we believe in, all that we professed to at our confirmations, that renewed our baptismal promises made for us as babies and then move forward on the words of Jesus, that he would never leave us, but be with us—always! Peace and love and a blessed New Year!