Readings: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
TRADITIONALLY on the Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.
In some respects, it was very modern in being just a one-child family. And we may be inclined to think that, with three such good people, life must have been very easy for them. But, if we are to take the Incarnation seriously, there is no reason to believe that this family - living the lifestyle of a rural village in those times - did not have its share of hardships over the years.
In addition there is the record of the child being lost for three days in a large and strange city. Imagine the anxiety of the parents in such a situation. Later the mother will see her son become famous and then the object of great hostility. She will see him abused, arrested, tried, sentenced, scourged, crowned with thorns and finally die like a common criminal with two criminals before jeering crowds. Few mothers have to go through that kind of experience.
Families in trouble
Today, in celebrating the Holy Family, we ask God's blessings on our own families. It is a cliche to say that family life today is in trouble. And it is a self-perpetuating problem.
Children from dysfunctional families themselves set up equally dysfunctional families. Never having experienced good family life, how can they themselves establish a good family? And it seems that very few couples go through any real formation process in being husband and wife and parents. Yet the skills needed do not come naturally - or easily.
Family and church
Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them. This should be true of every Christian family. The Catholic family is the basic Christian community, through which Christ is present and reveals himself in this world. It has been called the domestic church.
Christian families not only belong to the Church, their lifestyle is a living out of the Christian vision: the vision of unconditional love in a truly sharing community.
Part of a larger church
Family life is not meant to be lived in isolation. The world around it is not just there for its benefit. It should be united with, supporting and supported by the other families in the parish community and with the wider Church.
The mission of the family is identical to that of the whole Church: to give tangible witness to the vision of Christ for the world.
The Way of Love
There are many ways we can do this in our daily life as suggested by the American bishops in their letter "Follow the Way of Love":
- Believe in God and really believe that God cares for us
- Love and have a deep conviction of the value of every other person. The image of God that children have comes from the experience they have of being loved by parents, grandparents and other family members. Where, one sometimes wonders, do people get their frightful and frightening images of God as Father?
- Foster intimacy, starting with husband and wife and extending in appropriate ways to ever member of the family. In your family, can all members share their experiences, good and bad, knowing that they will be accepted and understood? Teachers and counsellors sometimes have young people tell them things they would not dare tell their parents.
- Give witness to the Gospel and its values by the example of a truly Christian life. Christianity is communicated not just by religious instruction but more by the Christ-inspired integrity of the parents. And overdoses of pure religion can create opposition and rejection. But children, too, can be a Christian influence on their parents.
- Education and formation in the faith. Parents need this as much as children. The example of the parents is the most effective way to teach. Children will be very confused by double standards where parents who act one way and they learn quite different values from their religion classes in school.
- Praying together. Thanking God for blessings, asking for guidance in time of trouble. The prayer should correspond to the actual needs and situation of the family. Forcing everyone to join in family prayers e.g. the Rosary may not be the best for everyone.
Way of Love
- Serving each other. Love consists in each giving to the other. Then everyone receives. Creating win-win situations and this can be carried out into life, teaching others to do the same.
- Readiness to forgive and seek reconciliation. Healing wounds and letting go of grudges and resentments. This calls for readiness to listen and to share. Look for ways to resolve conflicts positively and constructively, avoiding violence in word and action.
- Celebrate life -- birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, first day at school, graduation days, leaving childhood, first job, friends, surprise visits, big feasts (Christmas, Easter). Every meal can be a Eucharist of sharing not just food but experiences.
- Work with the rest of the community to foster the dignity of people, fighting against discrimination and racism, working against hunger, poverty, homelessness...
- Becoming aware of our particular vocation actively to serve the Christian community and the wider community. What personal contribution of time and energy is my family making to the life and work of this parish?
Working towards the ideal
These are ideals. There is no perfect domestic church. But some come pretty close. Others are too disintegrated even to get started.
Some can give help; others need help. We all long to live in a community of peace, unity, reconciliation, acceptance and with a sense of purpose. It can only happen when we all work together under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Source: Sacred Space