Merry Christmas to you all! As you read these words I am about 2,500 km away visiting my mom and dad back home, and in this time of year many of us travel to visit our families or make special remembrances of family who are no longer with us. In this season and on this day we are invited to recall through the readings, not only the Holy Family of Jesus, but the holy mystery that is being family itself.
Let’s begin with the Gospel which shares the harrowing account of the escape into Egypt, with Joseph leading Mary and Jesus to safety. Joseph takes the responsibilities of family seriously, in this case ensuring their safety and survival, but also ensuring that his family is listening to and responding to God’s plan for them!
The first reading from the wisdom of Sirach speaks directly to the children of a family, both young and grown! Sirach reminds us of the need to care for our family members, honoring them with our actions. This is all the more important as we grow up, with simultaneously more demands on our time, and likely more needs on the part of our parents.
Yet as we all know, family living is not easy. Our brokenness and that of our family members can easily cause rifts or damage that only God’s love and forgiveness can truly heal. Paul’s words seem acutely aware of this and advise us of the need for patience, forgiveness, and love most of all. We are reminded now, as we were in Advent, that when one person of a community is not living out the life of Christ, those around them must live it all the more and refrain from antagonizing those to whom we are most tightly knit!
The Catechism describes family as ‘the domestic Church’, ‘a privileged community’, assigned a ‘evangelizing and missionary task.’ The family is in many ways the training grounds for persons of all ages; a place where they learn to love God and live in service to others, to rejoice and console, make mistakes and forgive, and do so in a space of loving protection where they will not be rejected for failure. Is this not also the environment we cultivate in the Church and our parish? The notion of a Church being a family is not idle symbolism but a real truth of our faith, and another way we can daily honor our Father!
Written by: Alex Craven, Family Faith Formation Coordinator