This week in the Catholic Church the Sunday celebration is around the Holy Family; in fact it is titled, Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The readings and prayers incorporate family with order and obedience. We are all part of a family. Family is the place we come to and expect to be taken in, the door always opened for us. It can also be a place of struggle. Not everything we do is accepted by our family. We may have married without considering our parents feelings. Maybe we had children before being married. Maybe we live a gay life style and we haven’t informed our family. Many times we would rather not address some issue just to let there be harmony and non-judgement when we do get together. Family can also be the place we are most accepted for who we are. Our history is well known and we are loved unconditionally. Family relationships are complicated. Family is the one place we don’t select the relationships, they are thrust upon us.
There is a little of this in the Holy Family. Joseph’s relationship to Jesus as father is one that happened to him. He accepted the situation immediately, knowing God needed him, but it was not anything he planned. Today, created family is more common, moms and step dads and dads and steps moms lead families, we also see many single parent families. These variations complicate the relationship and challenge people in the relationships to be more open and accepting of one another. Not that this always happens.
We just finished a message series we called, “I come to do you will” where we discussed Jesus total acceptance and aspiration to do the will of the Father, the one who sent him. We’ll read this week that we should, “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.” Christ of course is the living Word, but a word we see Jesus focusing on in these readings is obedience. It is obedience that offers wisdom and prudence and glorifies God. Jesus always wants to glorify God, it is in so doing that we draw others into relationship with him.We’ll read this week that we should, “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.” Christ of course is the living Word, but a word we see Jesus focusing on in these readings is obedience Click To Tweet
The readings give several options but in the reflection we’ll focus on the following; Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; Colossians 3:12-21 and Luke 2:41-52. Each of the readings look at relationships and how to relate to one another, particularly in family.
The first reading is from Sirach a wisdom book named after the author of the material. The overall theme of the text is those who obey the law will obtain wisdom and for those who wish to obtain wisdom should be prepared to live according to the law. The reading focuses on the relationship between parents and their children, centering on the law handed down from Moses; “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and that you may prosper in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) Also known as the fourth commandment. We might struggle with this word obedience today. It seems to imply taking away freedom. But the reading teaches it is the best way to learn, to live long and to prosper. We can learn much from our father and mother, if for no other reason than their love for us and their experience far outweighs anything we could find anywhere else.
In the second reading from Colossians, Paul speaking to the baptized asks them to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient with one another and overall to be loving as it is the bond of perfection. Paul infers if we love than we will be obedient, because love aspires to do all for the one who is loved. Letting the Word of Christ dwell in us we are able to be wise and teach, we can sing psalms, hymns and songs with gratitude to our God, thankful for all we have through him. Paul also includes something on family obedience as discussed in the reading from Sirach, with the same thought, obedience leads to growth for all. Paul calls us to love and to use love to lead others to God. Paul knows growing toward God is important and he uses this letter to help teach those who will hear.
In the gospel of Luke we have the story of Jesus family and friends travelling to Jerusalem for the Passover in a caravan. Returning in a caravan Mary and Joseph don’t realize until the first night that Jesus is not with them. They find him in the temple where there is an interesting conversation. Mary wonders how Jesus could do this to them? Certainly Jesus knew the plans and was expected to show up when the caravan was leaving to make a safe journey back to Nazareth. Yet Jesus remains behind without informing his parents.
This leads to their great anxiety and a three day search to find him. Jesus asks, “Why were you looking for me?” Similar to the question he asks outside the empty tomb after his resurrection. Then he says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” A sure sign that Jesus is conscious of his identity, and Joseph’s role as step-father. However, Jesus returns with them and promises obedience to them. Jesus’ example is to do the will of his Father, to be with the Father. We too can take some solace in this idea, when we might struggle with our parental relationship, we know that we have a Father in heaven who is perfect and wants us to do his will. Jesus though the Son of God took the form of a slave and was obedient first to his Father and then to Mary and Joseph. Being obedient to our mother and father is pleasing to the Father because this is how he has taught us.Jesus though the Son of God took the form of a slave and was obedient first to his Father and then to Mary and Joseph. Click To Tweet
We can imagine in the Jesus family there were many struggles and much joy all through their life together. Family life is not easy. As Jesus didn’t begin his public ministry until about the age thirty, he spent a lot of time with his family. Not only his immediate family but likely aunts, uncles, cousins and others in their small village of Nazareth. It was likely a community life where everyone knew everyone, with many elders to be obeyed. Jesus’ promise of obedience would have extended to all who had a position of authority in his life, in the village and in the family.
Let the living Word of Christ dwell in you. A focus word contained in these readings leads us a message of obedience. We hear if we obey it is the best means to obtain wisdom and prosper. At the same time we must share some strong virtues, to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patience and most of all loving. In all things we must love and by loving do the will of the Father, glorifying him with out life of obedience.
Today, families look different, they are changed through divorce, gay marriage and many people choosing not to get married but living in a committed relationship. Our message shouldn’t change, we should love one another despite how the family is manifested. The holidays are times when families gather and each year we see more and more stories of families meeting together who are not close. The holidays are the only times when they get together and it can be an awkward relationship, a meeting of people we have not picked as our friends. Families don’t share all the details of their lives with one another and meeting each other is almost like strangers coming together.
However for those baptized, the family can be a great source of love and rejuvenation. This requires we follow the teachings on obedience, kindness, humility, gentleness and compassion. We must first love and then we will be loved by our family.
We tend to think of family as parents and young children running around the house. But in fact we spend the least amount of life as young children in a family. We are adult children and siblings for many more years. With this independence and formed intellect, loving family members can become more and more difficult. When we get together as adults in our family we tend to fall back into the roles we held when we were young. Stories are shared and retold that maybe are not so flattering, some hurtful and wounding. So we build up indifference, perhaps even dislike. But we should work through these stories and say this is my family — I will love them no matter the challenges.
Additionally, because of our history as young children growing up together we think this gives us the right to unlovingly correct or instruct mother, father, brother or sister. But in fact we should be doing the opposite, we should love them and accept them first. If we think they need to change and we want to help, we first have to love. “It is never if you change I will love you, it is if I love you then you will change.” @JeanVanierIf we think they need to change and we want to help, we first have to love. “It is never if you change I will love you, it is if I love you then you will change.” @JeanVanier Click To Tweet
The story of Jesus, Joseph and Mary shows there can be difficulties in familial relationships. But Jesus example is to be obedient, diffusing difficulties and keeping them from becoming problems that separate us from members of our family for long years. Jesus is willing to obey Mary and Joseph so that they will never have the fear or repeat the anxiety they felt when they could not find him for those three days.
Is it possible for you to do the same? Find a way to be obedient in your family. Using humility to demonstrate love. No matter the make-up of your family, or lifestyle choices, your family should be a source of great strength, wisdom, prudence and prosperity. Take Jesus’ example and find a way to make peace, use love and obedience no matter how you think this might minimize who you think you are.
Honoring a family member will always strengthen the bonds of love. It will also make us more like Jesus, who sends the Spirit to help in our families navigate difficulties and create smooth waters. Never let a family member become a stranger or enemy. Our father, mother, brothers and sisters are deep wells of love, they will make it available to us, if we love. Sometimes we don’t get enough love in life, let’s not lose these well-springs of love over something that can be fixed by letting the word of Jesus dwell in us richly.Honoring a family member will always strengthen the bonds of love. It will also make us more like Jesus, who sends the Spirit to help in our families navigate difficulties and create smooth waters. Click To Tweet