The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 31, 2017
What is there to say about 2017?
In fact…there is way too much to say about this year of change, confusion, violence, terror, natural disasters, escalating international tensions, and shame. At the end of every news day, we were left wondering: “What’s next?” Nothing can surprise us anymore.
The Church ends this calendar year with The Feast of the Holy Family. Our Liturgy offers us three Readings, each seemingly perfect to the occasion because of specific references to family life. That is certainly a good thing since we live in times when there is a lot of change and a good deal of confusion about just exactly what “family” means. Our Readings invite us to look deeper into the interactions within families, but, at the same time, expands the meaning of the word “family.” Let’s start small.
When we “look deeper into the interactions within biological families,” very often we see violence. No police officer is a stranger to domestic dispute calls. Our Readings propose a different way of living together…in mutual respect which brings about peace. Now, let’s expand our understanding of the word “family.”
Terror and the escalating international tensions are the products of a very limited view of “family.” Sadly, we often use our religious beliefs to divide us rather than bring us together. If people of faith would truly recognize God as Heavenly Parent to all humankind, then the harmony we hope for within our biological family could begin to define global relationships.
While we are heartened by the stories of families and neighbors working together to survive hurricanes, floods, tornados, and forest fires…the majority of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, for example, can’t enjoy these reports. They are still without electricity, three months after a devastating hurricane. Moreover, there is unimaginable human suffering from natural disasters. Those of us who have not experienced protracted utility failures are completely unaware of this because their stories go unreported. It seems that unless we feel related, then the suffering of others is of little or no interest to us. That’s exactly why we need to “stretch” our understanding of the word “family.” Think of it this way: If we want to call Christ our brother, then we must do the same for every other man, woman, and child.
Which brings us to shame! 2017 was a year when so many prominent men fell from grace…publicly shamed. One can only wonder how different 2017 might have been had these men set themselves apart, not by thoughtless acts of disrespect, but rather by treating others with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Would you want your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter treated like that?)
We begin a new year tomorrow. One can only wonder how different 2018 could be if we do our best to live what we proclaimed today on this Feast of the Holy Family.
Let’s work to distinguish this year as a year of mutual respect. Start small. Be especially conscious of making your family holy by respecting one another. And once you get that down pat, stretch the word “family” to include your neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. From there…recognize the guy who cuts you off in traffic as a much loved “brother.” Look at the lady in the grocery store who pushes ahead of you in line as your favorite “sister.” Greet people who look or act differently as “cousins.” Watch the news with the same concern that you bring to the Facebook posting from a family member in distress.
Just keep stretching.
And one year from now, if you’re asked: What is there to say about 2018?
No matter what else might be happening in the world, you will be able to say: LOTS!
It was a year of PEACE!
Happy New Year…Christ’s Peace reign within your heart and within your family!