We may think of Christ as beyond things like adolescence, but remember he was fully human. Today we see the teenage Christ rebelling against his parents, staying in the Temple. Yet we also see him submitting to them and growing in age and grace. Lets confess ways we fail to love our parents as we should..
Last Christmas calls from battered wives and children flooded helplines. Violence, abuse, loneliness dominated these calls. Alcohol was a major factor in a great many cases. Not a very good ad for our family life, or our sense of what matters at Xmas, peace and good will. Add to this a huge increase in family breakdown in our society and the picture can seem depressing.
In this context is there any point in the today’s feast, the feast of the holy family. Certainly not if our image of Jesus Mary and Joseph is of a no-problem family. But nothing could be further from the truth. They were poor. After travelling the long road to Bethlehem, they were shut out of the inn. Jesus was born in a stable. They fled for there lives from Herod, across the desert with scant food and danger everywhere. Then they were refugees in a strange land, threatened, excluded, lonely. Nor is Luke’s account of the teenage Jesus free from the usual rebellion; when Mary and Joseph found him in the temple, he said: “did you not know I must be about my father’s business”. Yet He did obey them, and grew in age and grace before God and man.
In effect this holy family survived all that the world threw at them and grew in togetherness. Jesus lived for 33 years and spent 90% of this eking out a meager living with Joseph and Mary in a quiet village in Palestine. Could God have affirmed the value of close family life more. For if that family had plenty of trials it drew them closer together rather than pushed them apart. That’s the message of the feast. It is about the family who hangs in there, prays together, stays together, bonded by trial and difficulty, who works at marriage and family life in the deep love of God and each other. For love is a conscious decision to go on loving and nurturing life no matter what.
Sure, this is increasingly difficult today, but its still doable. A huge number of families are still getting it right by the grace of God, remaining true to Christian principles of love, faithfulness and non-violence. Sacrificing the pub and personal ambition to be together. Working for each other and their children in an atmosphere of affection, trust and peace. Its not easy building such a family, but the alternative is unthinkable. Traditional Family life isn’t perfect but its better than any alternative that’s been tried. Without it we risk social disintegration, a reversion to irresponsible individualism. The ones who usually suffer most in this scenario are the precious people of our society, the children. They need, deserve, the love and security of parents who are there for them. They need a real home, a nurturing caring environment so that they can grow up “in age and grace before God and man” as Jesus did. The holy family were a real family. They stayed together, united by love, through all adversity. No less is expected of parents today. They’re called to create loving caring homes so that all children may grow in age and grace, like Jesus, their model, the lord of all faithful enduring love and nurturing care forever and ever, amen. So as God’s own gathered here, praying for families to our heavenly Father and Mother, we profess our faith
Prayers of the Faithful
For the Pope, the Holy Father of God’s people, that he and all the local bishops and fathers who pastor God’s family the church may do so with the love, care and diligence of Christ himself.
For our leaders in public life and government that they may promote and support family life by their laws and rule, and so bring about a healthy and nurturing society..
For ourselves in our own families and homes, that we may love and nurture equally all those of our family, feed, clothe, nurse and educate and bring them up in age grace and truth before God and man..
For husbands and wives especially those in endangered marriages, may they continue to grow in the love that first brought them together and be one forever in love in their final heavenly home..
For our aged sick or lonely relatives, friends and neighbors that we may reach out to them in familial love and care and so bring to them the love of God..
For the dead members of our families that they may, with our prayers, come to their heavenly home where we will be reunited with them one day..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ our lord who spent most of his life in a humble family home….
Home is where the heart is, as that great Christmas favorite, The Wizard of Oz, tells us. Certainly, a good home where love flourishes, is never forgotten. Its where we return to again and again when life lets us down. Its where we are laid at last, surrounded and mourned mainly by our family. Others may love us but not in the same way, or as deeply. Lets ask Mother Mary, the perfect mother, and Joseph the caring father, to watch over our homes in peace and love this Christmas and always..Hail Mary.