Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Holy Family

Today is the feast of the Holy Family.  It is a celebration of the dignity of that age-old institution we call the human family. It is a celebration of life, relationships, and the bond which makes us individually unique and with our own sense of identity and history. Every family , the unit of human relations and origins, derives its source from God. We are born into a family and whether we like it or not, we are tied to this family for life until death.  Saint John Paul II called the family the “sanctuary of life.” It is in the family that life starts in all its aspects. It is a miniature form of society where you have hierarchical roles to establish order. There is no equality in a society as far as roles and responsibilities go. Not everyone can be presidents, mayors, governors, etc. Specific responsibilities are assumed by people appointed to the position either by due process of law or by Divine Providence. Each has a role to play and responsibilities to assume. In a family everyone assumes a place. Not all can be mothers, fathers or children as far as the physical reality goes. Special circumstances can sometimes demand that one assumes different roles and we must admit the stress this creates and the confusion it can sometimes entails. We are individual members of a body. The Book of Sirach talks about an exhortation for each member of the family. It carries a promise of a long life and abundant blessings. Love is the engine which must be at the heart of each family. It is the love St. Paul talks about, a love which sacrifices, forgives, bears with limitations, respects and believes in the other. We cannot have a dialogue in our families if it is not first of all inspired by a true love for each other. Dialogues not motivated by a true desire to listen and understand will just be an excuse to vent out problems, assign blame on someone and end up in even more frustrations. Taking the time is just the beginning. The real test is our ability and willingness to listen. We can use an abundance of words without really engaging in real communication. Often times paying more attention to what is not said in words could take us more into the heart of the matter. This is why St. Paul explains that we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s gifts are not just to be received but are exercised so that they can develop in us. The art of listening is an acquired gift. The Holy Family invites us to celebrate life . To celebrate life can mean upholding values which promote beauty, joy, openness, growth, appreciating the gift of each other, unity, loyalty and the like. Parents complain about the present generation without acknowledging that the present generation is being short-changed. There is a cause and effect in everything. Money cannot replace what parents can give their children. Children need not receive what they want but what they need. If they cannot find what they need at home they will seek and find them somewhere else. The West is affluent in everything material but we are the most impoverished in relationships. Mother Teresa stated that we suffer from a different poverty here- the poverty of self-sacrificing love which translates in lasting relationships and hard commitments.  The Holy Family was materially poor but was rich in love for God and for each other. It was a family which lived in total trust in God. Joseph and Mary were people who lived in faith, not understanding the works of God but allowed themselves to be used by His Providence, and in the end became the ideal home for the Child Jesus. Does it mean that the holiness of the Holy Family came to be because they were always happy, always provided for, always sure of what the future was? You and I know that this was not so. Holiness is conformity to the Will of God in whatever shape or form it manifests itself. It is seeing God’s hand in everything which happens to us. It is the “fiat” of Mary, the acceptance of Joseph, the subjection of Jesus to authority. These are all virtues which can be imitated, albeit with difficulty sometimes, but all possible with the help of God. The family is a holy institution. In the mind of God it is to be the sanctuary of life. Marriage is the bond which keeps it together. It is a bond which unites a man and woman together before God. But this bond is not magical, it needs to be worked at, it needs nurturing, it needs to be kept alive by mutual sacrifices and self- forgetfulness. Family life is the stage where the drama of human existence unfolds. It is the stage where stories of pain, sufferings, infidelities, betrayals, unhappiness can unfold. Let’s face it, there were times we wished we were born into a different family! But it is also the stage where the grace of God can manifest itself if we are open to it and open to the sacrifices the solutions to problems entail.  It is truly sad and frightening how the family has been the object of attacks in recent times!  Redefining marriage from the union between a man and a woman open to the possibility of transmitting a new life to a union between anyone for any reason is a turning away from truth and reason.  Trends in a society come and go and if that society bases its life on trends, that society will end up confused and eventually lost.  Changes in society are defined by changes in attitudes.  Attitudes are influenced and eventually defined by the moral aptitude and moral orientation of the person.  The issue then is not whether changes in society dictate the way family life is lived, but rather, people must reorient their moral compass, so as to shape society according to values based on truth and reason and thus preserve the true meaning of family.

 I am also thinking here of a religious family. Saint Teresa of Avila had no patience with those who complained about the state of their religious Orders. Instead of complaining, she exhorted to do something about the problems. It is the same with our own human family. We have to find solutions to human problems and not just complain about them. And if they cannot be fixed, we must have the faith to trust that God knows how to bring something good out of a bad situation.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this beautiful meditation on the Holy Family--an inspiration for the New Year. I have always accepted the concept of the Holy Family as based in reality, and I have never understood why the Eastern Orthodox Church does not celebrate this. It certainly cannot be doctrinally unacceptable (such as objections to the Immaculate Conception or the Sacred Heart), because it is obviously biblically based. Anyway, both Christians and the world need this message and model of family and holiness. Wishing you a Happy New Year, and blessings as you share God's word and your personal journey.

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  2. hi. i found this photo on google and it directed me to your site. kindly advise who the artist of this artwork is and when it was made, if you have the info. this image of the Holy Family is one of my favorites. please email aliecalub@gmail.com Thank You.

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  3. Is it possible to get a copy of this picture of the Holy Familyu .Please let me know sbelfontaine@csj-to.ca

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  4. This is aliecalub@... I am not the artist of this beautiful Holy Family image. It was given to me as an old Christmas card and I decopaged it on wood. I cannot take credit for this art. Sorry this comes 4 years after as I just found my email address on your blog. Do I know you? Nice words :)

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