December 27 – The Holy Family
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and the majority of us probably think that our family is nothing like the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – especially when it comes to holiness! We say to ourselves that we could never be like “them.” But why not? Being a holy family does not mean everyone is perfect. Being a holy family does not mean no one ever sins or loses their temper. Holiness does not mean there will never be disagreements or discord. To think none of this happened with the Holy Family would be absurd. So what is holiness? Speaking from the experience of hearing confessions and counseling individuals for the past 38 years, I would say that the desire and effort to reconcile divisions within families is how a family becomes holy. Unfortunately, I have seen too many times where funerals or weddings bring out the worst in family relationships. How sad it is when family members refuse to attend a funeral or wedding due to an un-forgiven, un-reconciled grudge. I have seen it many times, and it breaks my heart!
Another way families become holy is by exercising kindness and patience. Again, speaking from my own experience and that of hearing confessions, I know how frustrating and at times embarrassing it is to care for a parent or family member suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia. My father had it for seven years before he died. The repetition, the confusion, the repeating over and over, the hurt if there is lashing out is all very difficult to be patient with. Then the embarrassing inappropriate outbursts in public! Yikes! It’s like role reversal…we become the parent and our parent becomes the little child! One of the options for the First Reading of today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family gives us great encouragement! It is from the Book of Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14. It reads: “My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins…”
Knowing that God will not forget the kindness you show to your aging father or mother, even if their mind fails, and that God will account for that kindness toward the forgiveness of your own sins should make it all the easier to be patient, even when it is difficult!
I pray that all our parish families become holier through reconciliation and kindness!
Enjoy this blessed Christmas Season!