26 December 2021 at Saint Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL
1 Samuel 1, 20-28 + Psalm 84 + 1 John 3, 1-24 + Luke 2, 41-52
Through the course of his mission, Jesus expands the whole idea of “family.” While the Gospel for today focuses on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it is not long before he asks the crowd gathered around him: “Who are my mother, brothers and sisters?” While sentimentality may like us to imagine that this holy family was the perfect family of all time, we might want to look more closely at what the Gospels suggest.
First of all, this is a family that knows anxiety and fear over a lost child. This is a family that had to flee their homeland for safety in a foreign country where they likely did not know the language. This was a family with a child who did not follow or do what everyone expected. This was a family with a child that brought shame on the family by breaking the rules. This was a family with a child accused of serious crimes. By the end, this is a single parent family. This is a family that practices their faith in the Synagogue and the Temple. No matter how you look at them, this family is just like us. It does not good to distance ourselves from them by imagining that they were perfect with a divine guest, that they never got frustrated, felt frightened, or shared a cross word or two.
I believe that the Holy Family we celebrate today is the Human Family struggling as it does to be inclusive like Joseph who welcomed a child that was not his own, patient like Mary who pondered the things she did not understand without refusal, and respectful of their faith and its practices. Like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we face all the challenges family life can throw at us with an awareness that we have one Father and are, like them or not, we are all brothers and sisters.
There is no denying the family we have been introduced to by our Baptism. It is the Holy Family of the Church. Claimed for Christ our Savior by the sign of the cross, born again in water and the Spirit, we are one in faith, one in hope, and one in charity. These days when the evil of gossip, lies, privilege, and fear close our eyes and ears to others who are not exactly like us, there is a special challenge and need to celebrate this feast and to draw from it the hope that God who has called us together and created us in God’s own image will stand fast and refuse to be divided into them and us.
This feast and this Gospel demand that we cultivate relationship within and without our biological families seeking the opportunity to grow wise and holy being enriched by our friendship and fellowship on this earth. Like Jesus, we shall then increase in wisdom and know the Divine favor for which we all long.