The Holy Family and My Family
My family holy?
Is your family perfect? I suspect you have your favorites and less than favorite people. Your saints and your sinners. Someone recently said, “Is there any part of modern life messier, more packed with troubles and embarrassments, and real suffering than the family. Yet are not many of our fondest memories wrapped-up in our family?”
This thought caught me as I celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. It reminded me of the heritage of St. Louise and St. Vincent. Vincent grew up in an ordinary family. Louise grew up in an abandoned family. She was the illegitimate daughter of Louis an influential nobleman. He knew she was his daughter yet by the social customs of his class, he could neither marry her mother nor recognize his daughter legally. Vincent, on the other hand, came from ordinary peasant parents. But at least at one point, he refused to see his father because he was embarrassed by him.
It is interesting how this echoes St. Paul writing to the Corinthians…
“Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.”
Today we come from a variety of parental homes… “traditional”, single parent, childless, etc. There seems to no right or wrong answer when it comes to what is the best type of family structure. However, as long as a family is filled with love and support for one another, it tends to be successful and thrive. Should we worry if our family is from the one that we call “holy.” Maybe we should focus on what so many of us share with the “holy family”: poverty, lack of opportunity, a need to relocate just to survive. So many of our families have no voice.
Keep in mind that Mary and Joseph were largely enveloped in silence. They did not matter to the world at large. They mainly mattered to their son. Yet, in the plan of God, that is all that mattered.
Why did the Word become flesh in a particular family and time?
This brings me to ask a question about why Jesus would want to be born in a family… any family… even the Holy family. Why not just take flesh fully formed? After all, he was God and could appear in whatever way he chose. He could have avoided the total dependency of the womb, the frightful journey through the birth canal, struggling to catch his breath, the limitations of waiting for Mary and Joseph to take care of his every need in his early month and years.
We easily say he was like us in all things but sin. But the scriptures remind us that he had to grow in wisdom, age, and grace. Something we take for granted. How could God choose to go through the normal growth process of a human being?
To answer that question I think we have to ask… Why did the Word become flesh at all? Why would he become like us in all things but sin?
Some would claim Jesus came to change God’s mind about us. But God’s mind did not need changing! Jesus did not tell us about a distant and demanding ruler, an angry old man. He told us of a father who loves from beginning to end… no matter what. “God has first loved us!” “God loves us even on the cross. He reminds us we didn’t earn God’s love any more than a baby earned the gift of life or loving parents.
I am of the school that Jesus came to change our minds…
- About God – He proved that God really does identify with us and knows intimately our day to day problems… and their worst manifestations, even the horrible reality of betrayal and death on a cross.
- About ourselves – He reminds us that we beloved sons and daughters of God made in God’s image and likeness.
- About one another – He showed us what it is like to be sons and daughters of God who cares for everyone, especially the lowest and the neglected.
- About what the kingdom of God looks like – He taught us that the kingdom of God excludes no one and is not a kingdom ruled by a few select individuals.
- About all creation – He demonstrated what it means to be sons and daughters of God who cares for everyone and everything in an unfolding universe.
If this is not a call to change our way thinking I don’t know what is! We are still struggling to understand how the birth of Jesus changed everything – for everyone – literally. Jesus came to wake us up to another world, to wake us up to our dignity in the “real world” of being sons and daughters of God’s world rather than our selfishly constructed world.
Waking up to being a holy family
Jesus is the model of living in the kingdom of God. We need only look at the lessons of his life and death. “Do this in memory of me!” “Wash one another’s feet as I have washed yours.” “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.”
This is putting on the “mind of Christ”. How different this mind is from the mind of the world that implicitly lives by a “me first mentality”, grasping power, comfort, and security.
“Keep Christ in Christmas” is more than a slogan of the culture wars. In its fullest sense, it is a challenge to live with the mind of Christ. “Put on the mind of Christ.” It is the challenge to wake up to the fact that we are all called to be a holy family the stretches back in time and includes all of our brothers and sisters across the globe.
Now more than ever, I am attempting to change my mind to the way of thinking Jesus came to show us. More than ever I am trying to think with Jesus mindset. Repent, which literally means change our way of thinking, and see one another as he sees us.
My exciting realization after 80 times celebrating the feast of the Holy Family, is the exciting realizations of keeping Christ not only during Christmas but in my remaining days. I now realize the birth of Jesus is an invitation to a radical change in my thinking to grow into the mind of Christ’s way of thinking.
Is your family perfect? No? Isn’t the birth of Jesus an invitation to a radical change in our thinking to grow into the mind of Christ’s way of thinking? It is okay to develop and grow within our family… as Jesus did!
PS Apologies to regular readers for another variation on a theme. As you can see I am still mining some insights of the past year.