Sunday, December 27, 2015

Three families (Holy Family homily)

On this Feast of the Holy Family, I invite you to reflect, with me, 
on three families.

The first family is our human family – our individual families. 
This is a time of year in which we emphasize family; 
we try to get together with our families and a lot of us look forward to that. 
Many of us have children and grandchildren visiting; 
people bring boyfriends or girlfriends to visit; couples get engaged. 
Gathering with family is really important.

An unintended result is that this can be a sad time for many, 
either because someone they love is absent; because of a death, 
or because of pain and division in their family. 
Some families are separated by long distances. 
But many families are separated by other things; 
and at this time of year, those wounds are painful. 
For some, staying away is the least-painful option.

May I offer a suggestion? 
If you know someone who isn’t with his or her family 
at this time of year, don’t ask too many questions. 
An invitation to be with your family is the best thing. 
And if you have the blessing of a happy, close family, 
stop and realize what a gift that is.

This brings us to our second family: the Holy Family.
We know that Mary was conceived without sin, and full of grace. 

We don’t know a lot about Saint Joseph, 
but he was a holy and prayerful man. 
God spoke to him in his dreams, and Joseph listened. 
That God chose Joseph to be the protector of Mary, 
and the foster father of the Divine Son, 
says all we need to know about Joseph’s character.

But in recognizing the sanctity of this family, 
don’t make them too distant from our families. 
Consider what they had to go through.

We know that Joseph and Mary were of humble means. 
Do you think if Joseph had had a bag full of gold, 
they’d have turned him away from the inn on Christmas night? 
They’d have found room for a wealthy customer, don’t you think?

We know that Joseph had to work hard. 
He had to pay taxes to the cruel Romans. 
He had all the same worries any business owner, 
any parent, might have.

And then consider what must have happened 
as a result of the special circumstances of Jesus’ birth. 
Everyone knew that when Mary became pregnant, 
it was before Joseph and Mary were still, as we’d say, “engaged.” 
So there were two obvious inferences for all the gossips to draw.

One was to point the finger at Joseph. 
The other, even more insulting jibe, 
was to say Mary had had another “friend.”
And when Mary and Joseph both said, it wasn’t Joseph, 
but the Holy Spirit, what do you think the poison tongues said then?

When Pope Paul VI gave a homily one time about this feast, 
he talked about how powerful it can be to contemplate the Holy Family. 
I’d like to invite anyone, who thinks the Holy Family is distant, and unlike us, 
to think through what these circumstances meant for Joseph and Mary, and Jesus. 
The gossip. The laughter. The insults. The temptation to strike back.

That this family was filled with holiness 
didn’t mean they knew no suffering. 
And just because our family situations feature pain and wounds, 
doesn’t mean we and our families can’t be holy.

And that brings us to our third family – and that is the Divine Family.

When God came to earth as one of us, 
his purpose was to expand the “family” of the Trinity – 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to include us. 
To adopt us into that Divine Family.

In baptism we are reborn; 
we are born spiritually as true children of God.

Think about what that means to say, you are a child of God. 
I am the child of James and Rose Ann Fox. 
Everyone who knew my parents can see the likeness I bear to them, 
for obvious reasons. 
As I get older, more and more of the things my parents said to me – 
which they thought I ignored – comes out of my own mouth! 
And one thing I knew about my parents, about my family, 
was that I belonged to them. 
I wasn’t a renter; it wasn’t a business arrangement. 
I was – I am – their son. 

And when we are baptized, we become part of God’s Family. 
God is our Father. Jesus is our brother. 
The Holy Spirit binds us as one. 

(Here I added a few words about the saints being our older brothers and sisters in the Divine Family, who show us how to be children of God.)

God became part of our family – our families. 
With all their pain and failure, with all that is both joyful and shameful. 
He wasn’t ashamed to call us his family. 
All so that we could be part of his Divine Family, 
both here on earth, and forever, in heaven.

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