Homily – Holy Family Sunday

December 26, 2010

Friends, as you can see by the date on this homily, I shared it early on in my priesthood, and because we aren’t able to meet this weekend, I am sharing it once again for your reflection. I have included just a bit of update but otherwise its message is much as it was originally written. Peace and love to all—Pastor Kathy

At face value, this is a beautiful Sunday—it lifts up for each of us the ideal of what it means to be a family, beginning at the crib in Bethlehem.  Mary and Joseph, realistically speaking, were first and foremost people of great faith, but coupled with that, they had to have shared a great love for each other, as we have spoken of in the past, to have given the world Jesus.  The Scriptures tell us that they took Jesus to the temple to fulfill the law, signaling that they wished to raise him according to their beliefs.  Jesus, under his parents’ watchful eyes, grew in strength and wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.

When we look realistically at the life journey of Mary and Joseph, we realize that it isn’t all a Hallmark card depiction of serenity at the crib and life lived happily ever after.  In fact, there are many missing years—from Bethlehem to the boy Jesus in the temple—to Jesus being baptized in the Jordan.  What went on during all those years of “growing in strength and wisdom and grace?”  The grace of God was no doubt upon him, instructing him, little by little, through the loving example of his parents—how to be, “God-with-us.”

So, beginning at the beginning, I believe it is good today to reflect on the real life journey that Mary and Joseph most likely experienced in saying, “yes” to God.  Mary was pregnant, outside of marriage, and she had to carry that shame, because what could she say—“Oh friends, it’s OK, don’t look down on me, it’s the Messiah that I carry!”  She and Joseph had to bear, no doubt, insults and ridicule from family and friends who couldn’t see beyond what their eyes told them to the bigger reality.  The traveling through the hills and across the plains to Bethlehem in her ninth month, to be counted—living their entire lives together knowing that Jesus’ day would come, and that there would be nothing they could do to save him from his inevitable fate.  Truly we see and know in our own lives that loving carries the possibility of deep hurt, but likewise, the possibility of great joy.

Earlier I suggested that Mary and Joseph had to have shared a great love for each and along with their faith, were then able to give the world Jesus, who lived so greatly and taught so clearly how to love, how to love everyone—even the most despised.  He needed this base, the family of love that Mary and Joseph gave him, out of which to give.  “Nothing comes from nothing,” Maria in Sound of Music says.  Where love and selfless giving are present and a desire to rear children to be good people in their world, with an ability to care not just for themselves, but for others, the children that such families give the world are truly gifts.  Wherever love lives, whether in the form of children or in forms of goodness and justice, the gifts given back to people, will always be of love.

The Feast of the Holy Family always causes me to reflect on my own family of birth and be troubled by its message, because of my inability to respond as Sirach challenged coming out of a somewhat dysfunctional family.  My mother found it difficult to love her children, because she felt unloved as a child and was constantly working on getting her needs met rather than meeting the needs of her family.  My siblings and I suffer to this day because we don’t know how, or aren’t able to be a family.  (I can happily say that some of us have grown and become closer over the years, but scars remain for some of us, still).  Now, in an ideal world, everyone should get their needs met, but that sadly, is not always the case.

As an adult, I have found love within my family of marriage and it has been a blessing! So now, as with other New Years, I am going to try and concentrate less on what wasn’t and more on what is, attempting to live love in my own life so as to have it spill over into the lives of others.  And on this day when we remember the Holy Family, it is good to remember that each of our families is holy, made up of young and old and those in between, each with a gift to give—each with potential.  Are we perfect specimens?—no—but all belong to God’s family and deserve to be treated with dignity.

Paul’s reading from Colossians today gives us probably the best resolution as we look toward the New Year:

“Clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another—forgive as God has forgiven you.  Above all else, put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.”

I find that when I try to put myself in another’s shoes, even if I don’t agree with their action toward me, it is easier to respond in love rather than with an action in kind.  Do Paul’s words preclude truth-telling or give permission for abuse?  No!—but they do give  us, a wider view–the view that Jesus took and lived in his life.

May each of us be blessed today within our families of origin—if there is strife, give us the strength to make it less this year—if we have been blessed with harmony—let us be most grateful.  It is funny how when all is going well, we take that for granted.  And when something goes wrong amidst so much that goes right, we think we have received such a bad deal; like this week when I got a flat tire on the loner car I was using while mine was in the shop for repairs.  And of course I had left my cell phone at home.

It seemed that nothing had gone right that morning—my computer wouldn’t let me do what I needed to at work, I wanted to visit a shut-in friend, but couldn’t find her house and so on.     It took my dear husband to remind me of the grace of God in this day that I had labeled as “not going right.”  “No one got hurt Kathy,” he said, and that is what counts.”  Even the tow guy said, “A tire can be replaced, not a life.

It was a beautiful day as Robert and I sat in the warm pickup and waited for the tow truck to come.  A neighbor picked me up and took me home after the flat occurred. Earlier, I had a nice visit with my friend and even though my day behind me felt less than good; she felt blessed by my visit.

So friends, as we reflect on family, friends and life—that which is holy in the context of this Holy Family Sunday, let us keep our eyes on the blessings and do all we can to allow Jesus to live through us and thus in our world by being grateful, hope-filled and loving people. Amen? Amen!