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Sunday, 26 December 2021 08:26

The Feast of the Holy Family

THE HOLY FAMILY    [Luke 2:41-52]

Bill Burt 150I feel squeamish when I see those paintings of Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, which depict this trio as the ideal family!  In reality, no one in the Middle East, either now or 2000 years ago, would consider a mother+father+child as a family unit. Middle Eastern families include a huge assortment of relations, including blood relatives such as parents, children, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, plus others who informally or formally are regarded as members of a  conglomerate known as a family . So why should we focus on a purely classical Western view of a “nuclear” Holy Family?

However, rather than focus on the issue of the unrealistic way Jesus’ family is so often portrayed in popular piety, I suggest that, on this Feast Day of the Holy Family, we think about our own families, and wonder with open eyes, hearts and minds, about the elements of real holiness we can find there. We could also question how we, as people of faith, can help those whom we regard as family members to grow in holiness.

In Australia and New Zealand, a contemporary family could include couples who are married, divorced, single, many relating in different ways. Children could acknowledge multiple parents, grandparents and a variety of siblings as their parents move out and into relationships. And, of course, there are many different belief systems. This is our reality.

In this somewhat confused reality, where can “seeds of holiness” be found? A good answer to this question can be found in Jesus’ teachings, particularly the essential ones that are found in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Rather than getting caught in a trap of only seeing rules and regulations and wondering how those in our circle measure-up to these, and worrying when loved ones don’t “fit the bill”, why not look for elements of the message of the Sermon on the Mount in our families? In the Sermon on the Mount which is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus urges people to be poor in spirit, to be willing to suffer for justice and truth, to reach out to the needy including those we don’t naturally like, to be generous, and very importantly to be compassionate and forgiving. As far as our family members are trying to practise these ideals, they are on the road to becoming holy. Surely we are invited to recognise and affirm this.

As people of faith who have been blessed with a more intimate relationship with Jesus than many others, we are invited to participate in the exciting mission of promoting an understanding of holiness, as presented by Jesus. Doing this is the life-long commitment of the Divine Word Missionaries, as it is of so many dedicated followers of Jesus.

Promoting holiness among our siblings, relatives and those whom we regard as being “one of us”, helps our families, in whatever shape or form they take, to become holy families. These are made up of people who don’t exclude others, who share, who love, who reach out to the needy, who are compassionate and very importantly, forgiving.

Over and over again, Pope Francis calls on the family of the Church to be inclusive, welcoming, unjudgemental and merciful. This is a simple call to holiness. May we listen to it and act on it. “Be perfect , as your Heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48) is another way of saying this.

Last modified on Sunday, 26 December 2021 08:34

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.