Homily – December 29, 2013

Recently there have been scenes on news channels about the plight of Syrian families in temporary camps in Lebanon. Families, often separated from one another, suffering the lack of food and shelter. The recent winter storms have made life unbearable for these good people. Those of you who lived without power, light and heat this past week were given a glimpse of what these refugee families are going through. We knew that power would soon, maybe not soon enough, but knew it would soon be back on. These good people have no such hopes.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and Jesus. As we heard from the gospel homelessness and dislocation were the realities faced by the young Mary and Joseph and their infant child. No room in the inn, take the child and flee. Homelessness and exile are the reality of hundreds of thousands of people today, good people victimized by powerful and greedy leaders of movements or governments. These are the people who should be in our thoughts and prayers every day.

As we all know the word family doesn’t have the same meaning as the one with which we were raised. Recently I watch the TV program, ‘Modern Family’. What a hodge podge of relationships and yet this is a true picture of family life lived today in all its varied forms.

In our first reading the important words are honor and respect. These words are two way streets; if we look to honored and respected then we are to honor and respect all those who come into our lives. When honor and respect are missing in any of our relationships then there will be trouble.

As one author put it,” It is first and foremost in our relationships, our families, our friends, that God is encountered, that faith is given flesh, justice is tested and our prayer is made real.”

Our most profound sufferings, our greatest heroics, our most significant encounters with God are here with these people we know and love, in their goodness, in their weakness. Where else do we most intimately encounter what Paul calls the “requirements” of love, compassion, kindness, humility, patience and the willingness to forgive.

Some of today’s family relationships are certainly not traditional and we may find them confusing and even unacceptable but if they are sources of love, life, growth and healing to those involved – to quote Pope Francis, ‘ who are we to judge.?’

Today on this feast of the Holy Family we pray for all those living in the reality of the modern family. May they know peace and love.