Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The word “family” may be a hot button word for many of us, especially following on the heels of Christmas when family experiences can be wonderful or barely tolerable. We may have different feelings about our own families and families in general. And for many, the Holy Family may be a romanticized or seem totally unrelated to real world families. But today’s readings have insights, no matter what our own experiences of family may be. In all the readings today, families are shaped by their faith, culture and traditions. In our Old Testament reading, Hannah, at the Temple, dedicated and gave over her only son, who would have a crucial role, unknown to her, in Israel’s early history. In the Gospel, Mary and Joseph followed the Jewish tradition of the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem when they lost Jesus. And the advice given to community members and their families regarding how to live together, as found in Paul’s writing to the Colossians, is shaped by the faith and experience of the earliest Christians. The cultures, traditions and social norms in these readings are different from ours, but there are similarities here that we can relate to and learn from.
It is no surprise that parents ultimately must let go of their children. The story of Hannah’s offering is framed by religious practices of the period and was required by tradition. Samuel would become both prophet and king related to the lineage of King David. The significance of Hannah’s action for Israel’s future was understood by later generations. One gesture in one small family had a lasting impact only time would reveal. As parents are well aware, the outcomes of their sacrifices are usually known only in hindsight. Risks are taken on faith. Sometimes they exceed a family’s wildest hopes and dreams! Jesus’ spreading His wings probably came sooner than expected and brought with it both confusion and consternation. Mary and Joseph were not any better prepared than most parents are for the challenges of parenting. Jesus’ interests in the Temple surprised and puzzled them and may even have been contrary to their own. In some ways, they did not understand their child any better than most parents. Paul’s words to the Colossians are addressed to people who have already learned norms for family and community life from their Greek culture. His advice is animated by the Gospel. Demonstrating how to live together and teaching our children how to interact with others is what families do. But practicing kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness can seem idealistic in the daily stress of family life and the challenges of what is acceptable in our world. If the early Christians needed to be reminded about it, so do we!! It’s how our families become holy!!
As you know, our parish family has been enriched by the assignment of two seminarians. Senovio Sarabia has been with us since fall of 2017. He will be studying in the Holy Land this spring semester and will be ordained a transition deacon on March 30, 2019. Our other seminarian, Luis Miguel Garcia has been with us since this fall. He has discerned that he needs to take time off from seminary studies. He is returning home to Mexico to further reflect on what God wants him to do with his life. Please keep both Senovio and Luis in your prayers.
Blessed Christmas Season!