Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Readings are here.

I remember being in Mass a few years ago with my father on this feast. The last half of the first reading can provide some entertainment for adult children and their parents:

O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him. For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you. (Sir 3:12-14)

I turned to my dad and said, "I guess that means we have to be nice to you, even if you go crazy. God said so."

Perhaps we have the tendency to think that the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had a nice happy quiet and simple life unlike ours. Perhaps we think they have nothing in common with us. At the very least they wouldn't have the same problems with child discipline everyone else faces. I think we can also assume little risk of Mary entering a hormonal rage once a month. Our lives can certainly feel a whole lot less tidy and easy!

But they didn't have it easy either. Let's not forget one of the first events in the family's life was an angel appearing to Mary. That looks good in the artwork, but angels were so frightening to behold I'm surprised the Bible does not note anyone ever soiling themselves upon viewing one. Next up, Joseph has to contend with the fact his beloved bride to be is pregnant. He may have been suspicious, or he may have believed her story about the angel and was then rightly nervous about helping to raise God's child. There's all that traveling while pregnant to think about, and then of course they had to flee because Herod ordered all the boys slaughtered. Somewhere in there they go to present Jesus at the Temple and hear all sorts of scary and weird things from prophets, and twelve years later they manage to lose Jesus for three days at the Temple. And of course on Good Friday, Mary watched from the foot of the Cross as her son suffered the most horrible death imaginable at the time. Let's not confuse her state of grace with an inability to suffer - those were real motherly feelings she must have been having.

The Holy Family most definitely did not have it easier than us, and they show us how the family can work together to overcome life's problems.

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