Date: Sunday, December 29, 2019
At this time of the year (closeout and new beginning) articles and media reviews highlight the best and worst of 2019 in events, personalities, sports, books, movies, songs etc. Old man 2019 takes his last steps. 2020 arrives as a new baby. But we are less influenced by these people and events in society and shaped more mentally, emotionally and spiritually by our families and home events like births, deaths, marriages and illness. The family, that we are born into and create, is the most important community that we will ever belong. Our readings today on the celebration of Holy Family Sunday emphasize family as bridge (Book of Sirach), as a spiritual cell or incubator (Letter to Colossians), and as a risky adventure (Gospel according to Matthew).
Jesus Ben Sira is a Jewish wisdom teacher writing around 200 BC. He stresses traditional values of honor, authority, reverence and prayer within the family. He underscores the importance of care that children should have for aging parents. Our contemporary society stresses our responsibility to the future while forgetting respect that we should have for the past generations. It is interesting as we become unraveled with so many new changes there is renewed interest in genealogy, of learning more about our deceased relatives and how they negotiated turbulent times.
St. Paul writes to the church at Colossae: “to put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility and gentles and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving…” It is the white garment that one puts on at baptism. We are to clothe ourselves in Christ with love and peace. Family is the place where the significance of our baptism unfolds; where the promises we made are fulfilled. Family, in all its messiness and rough edges, is where we learn of follow Christ. Family is the cell or incubator of the Church.
The angel asks Joseph in a dream to take Mary into his home and to name her son, Jesus. After the birth of the baby in Bethlehem and the visit of the Magi, the angel comes again a dream to warn Joseph of the threat of Herod. Near the very beginning of Joseph’s responsibility as husband and father, he must make a home for Mary and Jesus on the road escaping to Egypt. The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, like refugees of every age, must trust on the hospitality of others, of strangers to survive. They travel far from home with a hope someday to return home. Ann Marie Zon comes every year to speak to us of her/our mission in Nicaragua. She said to me that Nicaraguans who are fleeing their country because of violence and poverty will return if conditions improve.
Today we reflect upon the importance of family as essential to the wellbeing of society. We remind ourselves of the blessings and hardships that come to families. We pray for healing of wounds suffered within families. There is no “perfect” family. Remember when Mary confronted her son Jesus at the Temple at the age of twelve: “Why have you done this to your father and me?” It is within our family that we come to experience God, the Father’s love for us in Jesus Christ.