Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

Dec 30, 2018


It seems to me that this Feast of the Holy Family

could not be more exquisitely positioned on the calendar:

just after Christmas which tends to bring out

both the best and the worst in our family experience

and just before New Year’s - the time for making resolutions,

a moment to examine our own family life and resolve

to mend, heal, fix, repair and restore

whatever’s broken, wounded and failing in our family relationships.

 

Or not…

 

Unfortunately, many, perhaps even most of us, will fail in this regard.

On my blog this past week I wrote these words:

 

  • For so long, Lord, for too long,
    we've held grudges and resentments and carried backpacks of anger
    weighing silently heavy on our shoulders and in our souls,
    keeping us apart from one another, even in our families…

  • Now we're just days away from a new beginning, Lord,

a new year...
We say we want a fresh start - but do we?
Do we truly want a new beginning
or will we be content to carry last year's burdens
right through New Year's Eve and into 2019?


  • Will we hold fast to last year's grudges and resentments
    as we sing ourAuld Lang Syne?

 

  • Will we begin yet another year in the shadows of mistrust,

with chips on our shoulders,

our hearts burdened and estranged from others

for the sake of selfish pride?


  • If there'll not be time, Lord, to resolve and reconcile such feelings
    before the new year's clock strikes 12
    then help us - help us make it our first purpose in 2019
    to offer and make peace - where peace has long been wanting...

 

  • We need your help with this, Lord, because, sadly, up until now,
    we've not managed to get this right on our own.
    Help us, Lord, to make all things new among us
    in the year that lies ahead...

 

Families…

These days there’s lots of news

about the families at our nation’s borders:

lots of news and much concern - and rightly so.

Who’s going to be let in?  Who’s going to be kept out?

Who will be cared for?  Who will be ignored?

Who will be welcomed?  Who will be turned away?

Will we build a wall or more freely open our borders?

At what cost will we reach out to those on the margins?

How warmly will we receive those knocking on our door?

And how will we deal with any bad actors

who might come in if the door swings open wide?

 

The questions we have about the situation at our southern border

are questions we might also ask about those “on the borders”

of our own families, neighborhoods, social circles -

of our own parish.

 

  • Who’s welcomed in?Who’s ignored?

 

  • Who’s cared for? Who’s left out?

 

  • What price are our hearts willing to pay,

what is our pride prepared to spend

to open ourselves to those on the margins of our lives,

to those whom we’ve kept at the margins?

 

  • And if we open the doors of our hearts

will we let in others with their human imperfections

or will we demand of them a perfection

we ourselves have never achieved?

 

And please don’t for a moment think that I’m speaking

from any perfect place myself.

 

Like so many here,

there are in  my own family and in my own social circles

sad examples of how resentment and grudges,

how prejudice and pride,estrange me from others

who are or should be

or have a right to be considered family to me.

 

And even where such estrangement isn’t my own doing or fault

there are certainly circumstances

where I should say or do something

to encourage others in my family

towards healing, forgiveness and reconciling

- but I don’t.  I keep quiet.

 

  • The situation on our nation’s borders

and the circumstances in our own families

are often complex and not altogether easy to sort out.

 

  • Such situations are often not easily resolved

and I believe God understands that.

 

  • What I think God has little patience for, however,

is our intransigence in the face of opportunity,

our stubborn pride when confronted with mercy’s demands,

our selfishness when a situation invites a generosity of spirit.

our silence when we can and should speak a healing word.

 

I’m sure the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

had its moments, too.

 

  • The sweet baby Jesus in the manger grew to be an adolescent

who left his frightened and worried parents behind

to go lecture the rabbis at the temple.

They didn’t understand their teenage son.

 

  • Joseph relied on angels in dreams to help him figure out

his place in this most unusual family of his.

 

  • And Mary was haunted by a prophecy

that her heart would be wounded with many sorrows.

 

  • Their son was falsely accused, publicly humiliated,

sentenced to death and crucified as a criminal.

 

The Holy Family we celebrate didn’t have an easy time of it.

Not at all.

 

But each member of that family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

each put faith in God ahead of their personal plans,

all three put hope in God when everything seemed hopeless,

each was willing to let go of their own desires

in favor of being faithful to what God asked of them,

and each chose love above all,

regardless of what sacrifice such a choice might entail.

 

There are legitimate strategic arguments to engage

about whether or not to build a wall at our nation’s border.

In the end, we must find a way to be faithful

both to caring for our own and caring for those at our door.

 

No such wall, however, has ever been built or stands

between us and the love of Jesus.

Just look at the Cross:

only outstretched arms, opened in mercy - to all.

 

Whatever our Christmas celebrations may have revealed

about the walls we’ve built within our own families

and between us and our neighbors and colleagues.

 

Christ’s love calls us to find, in the new year,

ways to open our hearts, our lives and our homes

to those we have forgotten, ignored, shunned and shut out.

 

As he welcomes us sinners here at his table

so are we called to welcome those who have trespassed against us

and to find a place for them in our hearts, in our lives.

 

Pray with me

that we’ll not carry too many of our past transgressions

into the new year.

 

Pray, rather, that we’ll enter 2019, resolved to share,

to be clothed in:       

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,

gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another, 
if we have grievances against another.
As the Lord has forgiven us,

so are we called to forgiven one another.

 

Pray that the new year will be a time for us

to heal and forgive, and to pardon and reconcile

with those who are family to us

- for the love of God.