Feast of the Holy Family

Presentation in the TempleToday is the Feast of the Holy Family, and all of the readings for Mass today are about families.  Just the word “family” triggers an instant reaction in many people, in positive, and sometimes not so positive ways.  Many people do not feel like their family is very holy, and many are even ashamed of their families, because they do not live up to the Christian ideal that is found in today’s second reading for Mass:

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And, over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body.”

After you read these words in sacred scripture about how families should behave – how did you feel about it?  Did the words resonate in your heart as being true in your own family?  We all agree to the truth recorded in these words of sacred scripture, but does your family interactions reflect them?  If so – you are richly blessed. Thank God today, for the awesome family that He has so graciously blessed you with.  You will still need His help though, to guard and protect these precious family bonds in the future.  Jesus Christ is the glue that will keep you together, in spite of the heavy trials that life throws at us sometimes.

Some of us though, have some twinges of guilt or even shame after reading these words in sacred scripture.  We have failed to live out the examples of good family relationships that are depicted in all three of the readings for Mass today.  This might be because of a major thing, like a divorce, but it could also be something small, like a recent argument or how we treated a family member.

There are also many teenagers and young adults too, that are actually ashamed of their family of origin.  Their parents’ failures seem so blatantly obvious to everyone that they are ashamed of them.  They either don’t want to be seen with them, or else they personally take to heart the sins that they themselves, did not commit.

The same is true for parents who have children that have committed serious sins.  They are ashamed of things like their child’s misbehavior, grades, manner of dressing or ambition in life.  But, one of the hardest things for parents to cope with is when their child is struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction, perpetual unemployment, is in trouble with the law, or commits a very serious sin and is incarcerated.

In America though, there is a term that people often refer to called “skeletons in the closet,”and all families have them.  There is no such thing as a perfect family.  If anyone thinks they have a perfect family, then the family sins and secrets just haven’t been brought to light yet.  Their family’s sins are covered up and ignored (until they can’t be ignored anymore.)

Don’t feel bad about your family, whatever your life circumstances are.  It might help to remember that although Jesus Christ was born into the most perfect family in the history of mankind, his family ancestory was filled serious sins.  Jesus was a descendant of King David, who committed adultery and murder.  Moses also killed an Egyptian man.  Noah got drunk and made his children ashamed of him.  Joseph’s brothers were so jealous of him that they sold him into slavery. And, the prophet Hosea married a prostitute, symbolizing God’s relationship with the Israeli people who had repeatedly fallen into serious states of sin, as well.

God called all of these people into a life of holiness though, in His own good time.  Life isn’t over, until it’s over.  The story of our lives and our family members lives, is currently in the process of being written.  We haven’t reached the end of the last chapter yet and until we do, no one has the right to judge our lives.

What our lives look like at any given point in time does not accurately reflect the entirety of our lives, nor does it reveal the fullness of God’s plan for us. That is why the events that took place in the gospel today are so unusual.  (Simeon and Anna’s prophecies about Jesus’s life that no one, not even his parents knew at the time.)

We do not have prophets in our midst that reveal our own future, or what our children and grandchildren will eventually grow up to become.  But, like Jesus Christ’s own life, God’s plan for each one of us is revealed a little at a time.  Many people had misconceptions about Jesus Christ and made unjust decisions about him.  However, it was later revealed that Jesus Christ was the holiest human being that ever lived, because he was God’s own son.

One of the things we can learn from the example of the Holy Family in today’s gospel, is that the end result of our lives is yet to be determined, and our families are already holy if we love one another. Love is the definition of holiness.  If we love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we love our families, even as imperfect as we all are, then our family is holy too.  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus was the only perfect family there ever was.  The rest of us will never measure up to them.  But, that is exactly the way God created us to be.  Imperfect creatures, brought to perfection through the love that originates in Him alone.