Homily – December 31, 2017

This is the season of too many feasts. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, the gospel event tells of Mary’s purification in the temple forty days after the birth of Jesus. Tomorrow we celebrate the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth. Things get out of cynic this time of year.

On a feast like today scripture holds up models of what holds families together. Christian art has done a great disservice to the Holy Family. They were struggling working class people and life could be rough. All we see is a tranquil setting, angels all around, everything is perfect. Not so.

Have you ever watched the TV series ‘Modern Family’? It follows the stories of three families living in the same neighborhood. They are in and out of one another’s homes all the time. One family is a traditional family; mother, father, son and daughter. One family is interracial, made up of a divorced couple and the child of a first marriage and the third couple consists of two gays and their adopted son. A true picture of the complexities found in family life today and far removed from what we’ve always thought of what family life is all about.

These three families have all the joys and stresses of family life. They cope with good times and bad. They deal with stress and misunderstandings. They deal with the conflicts between parents and children. All of them in one way or another have financial worries. For all their differences they have so much in common with all those living the community life of families.

What holds them together is that each family finds a way to be faithful to the teachings we heard in our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians; they face their difficulties trying to be compassionate and kind and patient with one another. They find ways to be forgiving of one another. Harmony is the goal of each family and even after all the blowups and misunderstanding that are found in every family they strive for peace and harmony as they live out their differences.

You’ve probably heard of a letter from Pope Francis titled the Joy of Love. It is the Pope’s reflection on the Synod on the Family held a couple of years ago by bishops from around the world. Pope Francis makes clear that the causes of the family’s distresses are diverse, and that no single response to them will prove a silver bullet. The Pope makes clear that the Church has too often been content “simply decrying present-day evils,” and sought “to impose rules by its sheer authority. Pope Francis tells it like it is.

Francis wants us to In turn away from such attitudes by constantly redirecting our attention to the beauty and joy of married life and the family. He says we’ve been wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world instead of being proactive in supporting those struggling with the challenges of family life.

Francis makes a crucial point: “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” God is with all of us, not only the sinless and so the Church is called to accompany the weak, to discern with them and to integrate them into the life of Church. He calls Bishops and priests to look beyond laws and regulations, important as these may be, and take a more pastoral approach to the complexities of the reality of divorced couples and walk with husbands and wives helping them to find a way back into the life of the church.

On this feast of the Holy Family we pray for all the families in our parish family; the solid, the broken, the struggling and the searching, remembering the words of Pope Francis, “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” God is always present to them though they may not be always present to God.