We pray for our families of origin and our families of commitment. There are Herod-like forces who desire Christian families to be reduced to functional consumer-units and secular experiments in dispute-resolution. We are praying with both ideals and reals in today’s liturgy and both are good things about which to consider.
We pray not to be discouraged at what is and was so real about family life. We pray not to be discouraged at the ideals of Catholic family life. What is functional in our families is God’s familiar grace of healing, forming, and growing. What is dysfunctional is always being blessed by this same gracious presence. We pray to receive more sacramentally the gifts who form the redemptive community of our own real families.
Sirach has many good things to say about living properly according to Torah. Relating with any thing or any body reverently is relating thereby with God.
We hear today his advice to sons and how, by obeying, revering, being compassionate to his father, will preserve him, the son, from sin and his, the son’s, prayers will be heard.
The verbs, “honor”, “revere”, and “obey” are words of action. These actions are ways by which God blesses the do-er by prayers being heard and children being sources of gladness. Family fertility is so central to the Covenant, but the family must stay in reverent relationships to experience the blessings.
Next Sunday the Magi will arrive as the Church celebrates the Epiphany. Today’s Gospel begins with the Magi leaving. Don’t worry, many things in families get turned around; it will all work out okay.
Matthew alone recounts the Magi’ comings and goings as well as this dream-sequence of Joseph. Matthew depicts Joseph’s being dealt with directly by God through angelic visions. He takes Mary as his pregnant wife. He takes Mary and Jesus in haste to Egypt and then takes them both to Nazareth where Jesus will mature. Matthew is quite concerned with his readers’ becoming alerted early that Jesus is the Messiah and is fulfilling various prophetic texts to prove this. Jesus will be called out of Egypt and will be called a Nazorean.
No phrase supports “Holy does not mean perfect” more than “Holy Family.” Christmas means so many things such as good memories, warm feelings, smiley-children, and surprising gifts. Christ’s becoming human and entering into relationships with humans is the blessed event of history. We are thereby more than biological phenomenon’s, but embraced as belonging forever to God’s family. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus does bring us holiness by embracing us into His family.
This “holiness” has much to do with trusting dreams and graces. It has much to do with doing the responsive things. Holiness has much to do with “rising” and “re-rising” whether geographically or attitudinally. Catholic families become one of the chief places and experiences where conversions take place and that is holiness.
Joseph and Mary were converted in many ways with the entering of Jesus into their lives. Joseph was converted by Mary’s entering his life and likewise Mary was converted through being related to Joseph. So they turned towards each other, then towards the crib, then towards Egypt and finally towards Nazareth. Grace was holding this functional family together all through these conversions.
Christmas Day may be over, but not the birthing of Jesus in our lives. Perhaps through the Christmas-Day experience you discovered more flaws in your family and more need for conversions in the lives of others. Just perhaps you found a call to turn in yourself and not because of a dream. Jesus’ entering our lives asks us to make room for him in our stables, our lives, and our doings.
I wish I had known my parents before I was born. I knew them after they had worked on each other’s conversions for over ten years. I suspect my entering their lives called for changes as well. Thank You God, I did see drastic conversions between them and within them in my older years. My mother by herself intervened and converted my father from an alcoholic to a sober and humorous husband and wonderful father. My father graced my mother’ becoming more definite, more expressive, and more accepting of God’s ways. We six children, plus our baby sister who died after eight months, graced our parents to trusting God’s mercy and care. They were more and more religiously holy the more we grew up.
So this day after Christmas Day is a most wonderful time for our real family to gather around the celebration table of the altar. Jesus has been born that we might have life and blesses these lives with His holiness. We leave the perfection of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and turn again towards our journeys so into the imperfect, but holy-family day after Christmas. The real problem is always that we do not know how much conversion we need and when we find it out, we don’t want it, and we don’t want anybody else’s seeing it. Don’t worry, it always works out and is what makes families available to Jesus’ being born in their stables once more.
“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”