Holy Family Sunday: A reflection on being holy and human

December 26, 2021

We have a tradition of “piousitizing” (trying to make him look pious) the life of Jesus who is supposed to be the ideal, good child.  But is he being a brat who defies his parents who requested that he take his place in the children’s part of the Caravan as they walk back to Nazareth?

This will not be the last conversation that Joseph and Mary will have with him.  Perhaps, we can interpret his answer to Mary’s question, “Why have you done this to us” as a legitimate answer, but it sounds indignant and disobedient.  “Did you not know that I must be at my Father’s?” and “why were you looking for me?”  It sounds like a problem child who thinks that he is old enough to make his own decisions and do what he wants.

I am sure that there were other conversations to come, and perhaps some restrictions put in place.

Of course, they did not understand what he said to them, just like parents don’t understand when and how their children speak to them at times.

The story says that “Mary kept all these things in her heart.”  I am sure many parents ponder what comes out of the mouths of their children, and at times, find that hurtful.  I think parents pray, put their children in God’s hands and chalk it up to their kids growing up.

Perhaps the so-called “Holy family” was a real family where everyone needed to learn better skills of conversation, a more thoughtful reflection on the impact of what is said or done.  I would put a “w” in front of “Holy” – whole, wholeness.  That is the good of family life– to be wholesome.

If we really believed that Jesus had come to live in us, perhaps we would better use our emotional, intellectual and personal gifts to be more inclusive and caring of each other.

If we believe that Jesus was fully human, it means also that he had to grow into the human being that God his Father wanted him to be.  None know what kind of prankster Jesus was or what else he tried to get away with.

Perhaps Joseph was a good psychologist and Mary a wise and smart mother because today’s Gospel ends with a note of recognition: “that Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”  It takes a while and a constant alertness, a great deal of care and consolation for a family to become Holy.

We also need to review the word “holy”.  Its root has something to do with the name of God.  part of its meaning is “to be set apart, to be different” – not so much by pious actions or ritual actions, but by the excellence of our actions and words.  The Holy person stands out because of their authenticity and integrity, because of their helpfulness and respect.

Re-read the Book of Sirach, our first reading today.  A beautiful image, that “God sets a father in honor over his children.”  “Honoring” is the word this Scripture uses to set the tone for all human relationships – between spouses, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters.  The second word is “to revere,” to have reverence, to esteem, to respect.

Why is it so difficult to pull that off?  Very often as I listen to confession of adults and teenagers and children, it is very clear that there is very little “honoring” of each other.  There is competition, there is jealousy, there is fighting, there is struggle.  How can we help each other, support each other, show care for each other?  Real conversations, really looking out for each other is helpful.  Living together in a family setting is more than a confusion of activities going in many directions.  If the Spirit is missing in the family, we question whether a family is a family.

I love and endorse the clarity and succinctness of St. Paul in our second reading.  When we get up in the morning, after we do our toilet, get the newspaper, even have a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, get dressed, St. Paul suggests more than clothes.  Dress up in attitudes that bolster our best selves.  St. Paul writes: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones… heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.”

Such practical wisdom never goes out of fashion.  In fact, it is fashion’s highest form.

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