(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Mass-Blog-for-the-Feast-of-the-Holy-Family-2021.mp3)
The readings for this Feast of the Holy Family help us realize that love for our own families is like a garment one grows into with the help of wisdom. Children learn formative lessons from their parents and eventually embrace them as they start their own families. In this way, children become their parents just as all humans are called to become Christ for each other. But the love of Christ is a love even Jesus had to grow into.
The love of a Holy Family is a garment designed to envelop every soul in warmth. It has the moral fiber to strengthen its embrace of every member. In Sunday’s second reading (Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17), Paul gives the Colossians the secret to luxuriating in it.
Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. … And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
In many books of the Old Testament, Family is the greatest blessing one can achieve. Sunday’s reading from the Book of Sirach (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14) is a good, necessary and concise reminder for us distracted children of the 21st Century:
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
That’s not to say Sirach’s advice is easy to take. The gospel reading from Luke (Lk 2:41-52) introduces us to Jesus at a point when his maturity was like ours—still inflicting growing pains. Here we join Mary and Joseph on a frantic search for their little boy, who thoughtlessly left their company to satisfy his heart’s desire for the wisdom of God. That gift comes to him via a gentle parental rebuke.
“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Little Jesus answers back,
“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Luke’s account concludes, “They did not understand what he said to them.” Nevertheless, Jesus went back to Nazareth with Mom and Dad and “was obedient to them.” But these parents DID grow in wisdom that day and Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” As for Jesus, he “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”
All families have such moments of drama from which each member grows older but wiser. This drama makes life worth living, and drives the evolution for which God put us here. Why are we here in the midst of such a diverse holy family? Think of it as an extra-large coat of many colors we’re called to spend our lives growing into.
Tom, the image of the Holy Family represents the model for all families. It is not a sugar coated or idealistic image of a perfect or drama-free existence. There were hardships, many hardships.
Raising and being part of family life in our time is no different. Everyone and every family will at some point have challenges and difficulties. You know this firsthand from your own youth.
Yet God shows us a model of what a holy family looks like. One that stays faithful with fortitude and the knowledge of how much God loves us. With this love, we can accept and deal with whatever comes our way.
Thomas, both of our families have lived through tough times, personally AND historically. The resulting wisdom is among the benefits AND challenges of getting old as you and I are. But by God’s grace, he puts people in our lives and puts us in the lives of others, so as that wisdom compounds, it becomes a gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s life! The gift that keeps on giving.