Christmas II – Holy Family
2015 – Cycle C
1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 128; 1 John 3:1-2 21-24; Luke 2:41-52
From politicians to religious leaders; many people are bemoaning the demise of the family. Do you agree with this read of the present situation? How do you understand the word, ‘family’? Dad, mom, two and a half kids, a dog, a cat, some goldfish, a suburban, middle class house, are we on the same page? Consider, is a single person, a family? …a widowed or divorced person, with or without children, a family? Does a gay couple constitute a family? What about an older couple who marry for companionship? Consider what TV program reflects the reality of your family: Modern Family, Rosanne, Father Knows Best, ‘black-ish, The Simpsons? I believe we have come to live in a fractured culture simply because we no longer hold the same values or even speak the same language. Words have meaning. But we no longer agree as a society to the meaning of even basic concepts, words, and values that we once held in common.
If there is a decline in marriage and family life, the decline has been blamed on the cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage; divorce, though continuing to be painful, is easier to obtain and no longer a shameful and culturally condemned experience, and the rise of cohabitation without civil approval or Sacrament, even among Christians.
We all know people, often our children, who are cohabitating prior to marriage or people who are divorced. Maybe you are one of these. And though parents may not be happy with the situation how do you turn your back on your children? Whether we know it or not, acknowledge it or not, we know gay couples; gay couples who have adopted children. And in all this the sky has not fallen in Chicken Little! Have we been under an illusion of the reality of marriage and family life in our culture? And this is our cultural scene. Are we not ignorant of marriage traditions and the understanding of family in other societies? Values today are rooted, not in a common cultural or religious tradition, but in the self-enclosed universe of the individual; the “live and let live” view of life. There is no dialogue with past or present wisdom or human experience. What does this mean for Christians living in a society and culture which is not Christian though misleadingly continues to bear the veneer of Christianity?
Into this human situation and in this Christmas Season, the Church places before us, a family. But, what kind of family.
Joseph, Mary and their son, Jesus.
Joseph, a manual laborer whose pedigree is royal; of the House of David. A seemingly quite man. The Scripture records not one word of Joseph who quickly drops from sight in the story. Is he just the typical, quiet, American male or does he die leaving Mary as a widow and a single-parent? Are there other children as the Gospel of Mark records? What is there role in this family?
Mary, a Jewess, is from peasant stock. During their betrothal, there are shadows of betrayal and divorce circling overhead like a hawk ready to pounce on its prey. Mary is pregnant and Joseph is not the father. What was the conversation like between Joseph and Mary? What convinced Joseph to accept Mary and claim the child as his own? What explanation would you accept? The government comes to know of the presence of the child and want him eliminated ordering a massacre. To save the child, the couple is forced to flee from their homeland and seek refuge in a foreign land – Egypt – which for Jews holds deep memories of slavery as well as wonder. After years, the family returns to their homeland and settles down.
Except for one, know-it-all adolescent episode, Jesus, their son, lives in a silent and hidden world until he appears as an adult. Having rejected Joseph’s way of life, he takes on the role of an itinerant rabbi and is known as a healer, seemingly never to return home again. Some people question if he is the promised Messiah, a concept that embraces both religious and political spheres. The State did not eliminate Jesus as a child. As an adult he is now executed by the State – disgraced.
Does any of this resonant with your family experience?
Why, is this family group called “holy”? There is something very ordinary about them. And yet they embrace many of the burdens of contemporary family life – if not the family burdens of every age. Maybe that’s why they are ‘holy’.
This family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is fractured like our families. Like our families they struggle with making ends meet and at times not understanding each other. The family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have skeletons in their closets which are made public on Calvary. Like our families they pray, I expect imperfectly, but trusting in the God of their ancestors, in promises made and yet to be fully realized.
Might it be that this mixture of struggle and fidelity is holiness?