Feast of the Holy Family

Feast of the Holy Family

December 29, 2019

What other title could you give them?!   We have a husband of sacred ancestry who is continuously visited by messengers of God, a wife who conceives a child through the power of the Holy Spirit and their child who is none other than God Incarnate.  If that combination doesn’t earn you the title of Holy Family, nothing else will. 

But what does it mean for us?  What does it mean for our not-all-that-holy, filled with flaws, slightly—or more than slightly—dysfunctional, irregular families? 

It is without question that our understanding of family in our culture is changing. Families have fewer children than they did a generation ago.  Single parent families are not an exception. Interracial families and families with parents that are not married and families with same-sex parents don’t raise the eyebrows as they once did.  Beautiful families have been reconstructed because of divorce and re-marriage.  Inter-generational households once were formed when a family invited elderly parents back home but now are more commonly formed when adult children move back home with their once-empty-nested parents. 

In the political spheres there is a lot of rhetoric when it comes to talking about family, often with unfounded certitudes created out of unsubstantiated fears.  A look around the globe will paint pictures of family so different than ours it would make our naive heads spin.  And certainly, a critical look at family structures in the culture of the ancestors of our faith have little in common with the family structures to which we have become accustomed in our culture.

When it comes to defining or demonstrating holiness in family, though, some things do remain constant.  The practice of grateful hospitality within families will always trump the practice of rigid dogma or ideological righteousness. In other words, what happens around the kitchen table is always going to be more important than what happens in any theology classroom or legislative office. The values of love and forgiveness and fidelity and stability seem to speak to all generations, to all cultures, to all families.  That doesn’t change.

Perhaps now that many of us are a little familied-out over these holidays, one word might be worth remembering from this Feast of the Holy Family.  It seems a very simple path to holiness when it comes to family is the path of “other.”  When we care about other (whoever that other is in whatever our families look like) we have found the path of holiness.  When concern for other outweighs concern for self, when care for other overrides care for self, when the protection of other remains a higher priority than protection of self, we’re on the path to holiness. In the light of scriptural wisdom it remains clear that holiness is created more though honoring another than seeking honor for self, and that gentleness and patience for another will always create more lasting peace than having to be right. 

So while we honor the Holy Family today for who they are, it seems that we can be better served to imitate them in what they each did for each other.  The greatest honor we can give them today is to imitate in our lives what they each did—and continue to do—for us, their holy family. 

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