Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
We are in the season of celebrating Jesus’ making all humankind His family. It began small and has been increasing ever since. The Holy Family of Mary and Joseph has become the family of you and me with Jesus in the middle of us all. The original parents, Adam and Eve, were themselves visited by an attracting personage, call it a snake, and that threesome became the primitive family of dysfunction. They had to flee their homeland and live in alienation, distinction, separation, and confusion.
Families of Commitment, ever since then, have been trying to live towards the original paradise. The wish of each parent to recreate the original harmony always meets the weakness resulting from the Fall. Families are where wishes meet weakness and dreams resolve into late nights and early mornings. So with today’s readings and Eucharist we have much about which to pray and receive.
Popular sections of bookstores are those which present publications in the general area of “How-To-Do-It”. Here in the U.S., if you could write a tricky and trendy title about seven leaps to a loving family, you could get on Oprah's TV show. Until then we will listen to a snippet from the Book of Siarch, who has not appeared on Oprah yet.
We hear of how the holiness or relationship with God is reflected in the reverence which children have for their parents. The form of writing, from which these verses are taken, is known as Wisdom Literature in which much common sense and thoughtful expressions about living the holy life are taken. When listening to these verses, parents might say, “would that it were!”. Daughters and sons might say, “Ya, but you don’t know my parents!”. This reading is full of “What’s in it for me?” thoughts. Promises are made to the children who honor, reverence and care for their parents. This is less a how-to-do-it than a Why-To-Do-It section. As you may have observed, the “Why” section of bookstores is much smaller than the “How” section. The “Why” has to do with loving which involves sacrifice and that isn’t selling well these days.
In today’s Gospel, we will hear of a family in transition. There have been visitations from attractive angels to each parent. Gabriel invited Mary to ponder whether she could trust the promise of being pregnant with the Son of God. He was relying on her reliance upon God to make an interior journey to divine motherhood. Joseph received a dream-visit inviting him to trust the ways of God and make the interior journey of becoming a loving husband and earthly father.
Now we see Joseph getting a true “wake-up” call to make an overland journey with his family from their homeland. Unlike the first family of scripture, who were banished, this little family is sent on a journey of faith, hope and love. They do return to Nazareth in time, from Egypt to fulfill the Hebrew Scriptures. We see in this return from exile a hint of the coming restoration of God’s holy family through and in Christ.
I am a Jesuit priest and so I must have come from a very pious and holy family. Well, hmmm. We never said the Rosary, night prayers, beginning-of-trips prayers, nor asking God’s blessings before meals. We seldom went to mass together, nor attended devotions during the week. We six children knew that our parents loved each other and we knew they lived their love and their beliefs in God.
When our baby sister was injured at birth and died after eight months, we experienced their faith in the God Who gives and receives. Our parents talked much of God by the manner in which they took care of each other and of us. What we most saw was the holy sacrifice of Marriage lived by two people who had very strong egos. They had their wishes, their dreams, and they loved us as they experienced how our human weaknesses rearranged their plans.
We made journeys together and they made some by themselves, but like Mary and Joseph their real journey was a sending, a mission to bring Jesus to a greater birth and revelation in this world through their lives and ours.
A family is not holy because there is a Priest, Sister, or Brother
from within it. A family is holy when there is the constant transition
from the results of the first-family’s self-preoccupation to the self-sacrificing
of the Second First-Family. How to do this is secondary to the why.
The “why” is centered in the desire to bring Jesus back out of exile and
into our homeland and His.
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