December 31, 2017 at Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples. FL
Sirach 3,2 & 12-14 + Psalm 128 + Colossians 3. 12=21 + Luke 2, 22, 39-40
The commercial tendency to sentimentalize the Birth of Christ with all kinds of romantic images and dramatizations of the nativity with children’s pageants full of wooly lambs, regal visitors, and the perfectly lovely couple with a sweet little baby gets a correction with this feast today. Do not be misled by the words: “Holy Family”. This is not to suggest that somehow this little couple from Nazareth who found their way to Bethlehem were special and given a pass from the realities and hardships of family life. That family was real. Those two parents stumbled around and made mistakes just like everyone of you did with your first child. They did not have Doctor Spock, Dr. Seuss Books, Pampers, Formulas, or any of the other conveniences many enjoy today. Both parents worked. Their child was a real human child with bumps, scrapes, fevers, sore throats, ear infections, and everything else. He played in the streets, probably kept company his parents did not always approve of, and there is no reason to believe that he liked broccoli! On top of that, get over any idea that Mary and Joseph agreed on everything and never had an argument. They did not enjoy a sheltered and trouble-free life. That kind of thinking takes away from this feast the whole wonder of holiness in the midst of humanness. What we celebrate today is how the holy is found in a real family. It is about how God can and has chosen to be revealed and found in the very ordinary ups and downs, of a home.
This feast does not leave out those whose experience of family is somehow unique or different from what some would insist is the perfect and only way to be family. Family, in the end, is about relationships, not about roles of parenting, providing, or home making. Not all of us live in nuclear families. Some of us live alone. Some of us come from broken families, or we belong to some wider groups linked by blood or by other ties like religious communities. Monasteries and convents for example, are really families with brothers and sisters who love and care for one another. What all of us have in common, I hope, is a home, and that is where the feast leads us. It leaves us to look at and reflect upon our homes as places where we find God and are sanctified by what happens there.
Today’s feast proposes that somehow, we have to make certain that our homes are open toward heaven not only by the way we live and treat one another in those homes, but also by the prayers that are offered there, the sacrifices made in love, and the loving service that is given. The forgiveness that is shared in a home makes it a temple where God’s forgiveness is found.
Our Catholic Church has always believed that the home is the first and fundamental church, the first community of love. The bigger church is never stronger or more enduring than the family homes that make up a parish.
There is a big difference between a house and home. A house is place full of furniture and stuff. A home is the place to which we can always return and be sure of a welcome. It is the place where we taste on earth the joy and peace of the place God has for us in heaven. Remember that as you go home today, and make it so for you carry within you the Body and Blood of Christ who lives in your home.