Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 OR Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3
Colossians 3:12-21 OR Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
Does the “typical” family really exist? Families come in so many shapes and sizes and there is nothing “typical” about them. Our family of origin, our family of association, the family of our church, the family of humanity and the family of creation are all different types of families. Even our work and school associations are often referred to as “families.” They vary in expression and style as much as human beings vary one to the other. As much as we are different, our families are different. All require tolerance, patience and freedom of expression. We are more connected to each other and to all of creation than we think. We are hard-wired to be connected with God, one another and our world. We cannot be our best selves in isolation.
The Holy Family was not typical either. They were much different than many of the families of the day and certainly unique in its expression and makeup as well. They faced challenges and struggles as we face challenges and struggles. God never promised an easy life. As we ponder the Holy Family today they can point to some valuable lessons we often forget. They teach us to look for God in our families as they are; not seeking to change them or mold them into what we want or need them to be, but to accept them, graces, imperfections and all. God is present to the often messy expressions of our families.
Our familiar relationships are not just “about us” and what we can get from them. Rather, they are more about what we can do for them. Sometimes it is easy to see God in clear and obvious ways, but most often we have to look a little harder. There is always the thread and call of Love weaving in and out of whatever relationship captivates us. Sometimes that call leads us to leave that which is hurtful, unjust, or dysfunctional and walk a different path.
If the Holy Family did not keep their eyes focused on God, they never would have persevered or fulfilled God’s vision. They would have been without purpose and hope. Our families are ways in which God leads us. Even when our families are broken, hurting, and hurtful, God is leading us to wholeness and guiding us.
The example of the Holy Family also shows us to trust in what our families can be and what God can make them. There is always promise and hope. There is always tomorrow. As the Holy Family kept God’s vision before them, so can we. How can the unique gifts and blessings I bring to my familiar relationships serve to build them up and make them better? God promises to be with us. Therefore, we can strive to be our best selves. Our families, those close and those extended, will reap the benefits.
Everyone deserves a respected place in our closer more intimate families, in the family of humanity, and in the family of creation. Pope Francis tells us in his encyclical Laudato Si: “When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”
Do we appreciate that we are connected to all people and to all things? God designed it this way. Sadly, there are so many relationships that are broken. The sad consequences of imperfection and sin can derail us and disconnect us from one another. There are so many places in society where basic human needs are ignored. People who are poor do not get the care they deserve. Yet, even in the face of injustice the voice of Love cries out. Can we hear it?
The Holy Family calls us back to our roots, to a simple childlike trust in God. Joseph and Mary knew that they were entrusted with a gift, the very light of God. It is this light who is Christ who reveals to us how our family relationships, whatever form they take, are to work. He alone can bring healing to division and peace where there is discord. All we have to do is listen and find Christ. Hope and courage are often difficult to come by. The Holy Family demonstrates very clearly that all is possible with God when one puts faith in him.
Rev. Mark Suslenko
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace,
according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for our people Israel.”
Compassionate Father, may the example of the Holy Family
inspire me to put my own needs and desires,
which are often fueled by self-focused needs and self-fulfilling desires,
aside and work toward healing divisions in those relationships closest to me,
with my brothers and sisters, You and the world you have entrusted to our care.
Give me the courage to work at healing painful memories and opening new doors.
Help me to use prudence, right judgment, moderation, and justice
when making decisions and learn to see as You see.
Give me the resolve to challenge injustices I see,
learn from the mistakes I make, and to persevere in fulfilling your vision.
Increase my faith, restore my hope and deepen my love.