Sunday, December 31, 2023

Measuring up to the Holy Family! (Sunday homily)

 If you have been keeping track, 

we heard about eight people in these readings: 

Abraham and Sarah and Isaac; Simeon and Anna; 

Mary and Joseph, and the Lord Jesus.

Each one, in a different way, had faced hard blows. 

Think of Sarah’s heartbreak in not being able to have a child. 

Anna who lost her husband after only seven years of marriage. 

Mary and Joseph having their lives turned upside down by God’s Plan.

So, a simple lesson. You are not alone. 

If you think your life is a mess; 

or if you are discouraged, or even ashamed, 

by the problems your family has, you are in good company.

And I will make a further point. 

When God asked these folks to take a step of faith,

Each of them could have said, “Not me!” for good reasons.

Too old! Abraham and Sarah could have said.

I’ve suffered enough, Anna could have said.

I have no experience, Mary could have said.

On this feast of the Holy Family, 

it is really important to remember that no family, 

including the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, 

fits the “ideal” – 

that is, the ideal that is portrayed in happy stories, 

or which we concoct in our own imaginations.

No family is like that, because it does not exist!

And the thing is, that’s an invented ideal; it’s not God’s.

Realize that holiness is not something we will eventually get to, 

after the holidays, after the bills are paid, 

once things settle down at work, once the children are a little older, 

when we have a little more financial security…

You get the idea? Later, later…

No. The Holy Family is holy not in idyllic serenity 

but in hectic, even frantic circumstances. 

They have money problems. They are looking for housing. 

Joseph is looking for work. 

They face prejudice and gossip. Their taxes are too high. 

The Romans push them around. They are in danger of death – 

they have to flee to another country. 

They are separated from friends and family. 

In the midst of all this, somehow they find time to worship; 

Joseph, after a long day’s work, finds time to pray and listen to God.

Mary ponders all these things in her heart.

They find holiness not apart from, 

but precisely in these circumstances.

That’s how it was for the Holy Family, 

and that’s how it is for you and me.

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