Date: Sunday, December 31, 2017
The feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth is an occasion to speak of the importance of family no matter when the time or place. Families connect us to the past and create a sense of belonging; families are a cell or workshop of virtue and discipleship; and families kindle hope in the future.
Jesus Ben Sira, author of our first reading, encourages young men (and daughters) to have respect for their fathers and bring comfort to their mothers. There are mutual blessings: sins are forgiven, prayers are heard, promise of a long life and a house raised in justice.
St. Paul exhorts the Colossians to take off their old self and put on (like a baptismal garment) compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bear with and forgive one another; and over all put on love. These virtues must be learned and practiced in the family. Families are the micro Church.
Simeon, elderly and devoted, sees the child of Mary and Joseph as destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel; a sign that will be contradicted; and Mary’s heart to be pierced. Anna, a widow and prophetess, gives thanks to God and expresses hope for all awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. Family connects us to future generations.
There are challenges ahead for families. No matter how we cling to the past that we are familiar change will come. It is happening now. Don’t expect to own a personal car – not with Uber and automated self driving cars; with fewer personal cars less need for parking more space for green parks; cars will be electric; abundant electricity will desalinate salt water; 3D printing dramatically will change production; IBM Watson will eliminate need for paying lawyers for legal advice; Watson will diagnose diseases more accurately than nurses and doctors; 70% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years; new jobs will be created but maybe not at the same pace as loss. (CEO Daimler Benz) These changes will all impact on the quality of and stress on families.
In the Gospel Infancy Narratives, Joseph, Mary and Jesus face significant challenges. According to St. Matthew there is the threat of King Herod and journey to Egypt and according to St. Luke there is no room in the place for travelers. The family of Nazareth experiences the hardship and plight of refugees and immigrants today. There is no need to idealize or romanticize the Holy Family when they deal with complexities and changes of our human condition. We can relate to their struggle; be inspired by their fidelity to God; and devotion to one another.