Recently I read this very realistic description of the Holy Family – A betrothed man feels jilted – words at the child’s presentation in the temple cause anxiety – a political threat causes the family to seek refuge in a foreign country and hide out in Nazareth after their return – a child runs away in Jerusalem – a mother has difficulty perceiving her son’s plan in Cana – the family believes he is out of his mind and tries to bring him home – a son is arrested and executed in his prime -a mother is left by her dying son in the care of a non relative – – truly theirs was a family fraught with all of the ups and downs, joy and sadness of our own families.
As I said this is a realistic portrait of the life of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
I received a Christmas card from a former classmate of mine – he was one of my best friends in the seminary and in the priesthood. I was shocked when he left the priesthood. He married (they had three children – all adults now). His first son was born with only half of a left arm. In their late teens both his daughters were heavily into drugs – and in his Christmas card he tells me his wife has been under medication for the past ten years for clinical depression.
In my years as a priest I have been spared all his troubles – and I admire the commitment his has to his wife and family in his new vocation as husband and father.
That’s why I keep telling you – the saints of the church are in the pews of the church – someone has said the family is a little church – and it’s your life within your little church that brings you to holiness. Your struggles to keep alive and deepen your first love – your efforts to raise sons and daughters passing on to them the learned wisdom of your own lives – the way you deal with hurts and disappointments – your patience with teenage sons and daughters as they work their way through the insanity of those years – young people have to deal with feelings of not being understood or appreciated by parents – the anxiety of going on to college – trying to sort a career – good people have to face the loneliness of widowhood – the pain and anger of divorce – the struggles and hard work of being a single parent – good people are dealing with family illness, family alienations – all these mixed in with the joys of family celebrations of feasts and birthdays and anniversaries – new births and weddings – all these are part and parcel of family life – many of them were experienced in the family life of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
As I mentioned many times before, holiness is in the ordinary – we come to holiness in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives – being open to whatever comes our way with each new day – trusting the truth that God is with us every step of the way – trusting the promise of Christ, I am with you always even to the end.
This feast is your feast – as you come to holiness through all your efforts to live a positive, healthy and holy family life – and as you know so well – some days you win and some days you lose – but you never give up. This is what makes you the saints of the church – the heroes and heroines of the church. You are the ones who make the church holy.
As we continue to celebrate this feast of the holy family we pray as a parish family for all the families of our parish – the solid and the troubled families – that God’s peace and healing be found in every home in this parish family of St. Gabriel’s.