Holy Family, Year A
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
December 29, 2013
“Bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”
These are words that Paul writes to the Colossians. Who do you think of as you hear these words? Who is it that you feel you have to bear with? Who do you need to forgive?
It can apply to various people in our lives but it can apply to our families in a unique way. If you have a friend who you feel hurts you a lot, we are called to forgive them or perhaps to bear with them through a difficulty but in then the end, if they are a ‘bad friend’ we can find a new friend. It doesn’t work that way with family.
It’s with family that we learn compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, and perhaps most of all patience.
Today we celebrate the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What does it mean to be a family?
God did not create us to be isolated individuals. God created us to be in communion with one another. We see the communion in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are united in perfect unity.
We see it in the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do not exist as isolated individuals who come together for selfish gain.
Who leads the Holy Family?
Reading today’s gospel, in terms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Joseph is leading the way. This can bring to mind Paul’s words “wives be subordinate to your husbands.” These are not popular words today. Whether we are female or male, we don’t like to be told what to do.
A wife who tries to honor these words may feel like her husband always makes decisions that are selfish. Any husband who does may hear the words “wives be subordinate to your husband” and uses them to get his wife to cater to his every need, hasn’t heard the words that follow “husbands love your wives.”
If we love someone and the love is mutual we should expect that each makes accommodates the needs of the other but not “accommodating the other” is not enough.
In love, we go beyond accommodating to making sacrifices for the ones we love.
I already mentioned how Joseph appears to be leading the way. We see he does not make decisions based on his own needs and wants. If he did, he probably won’t have moved the family to Egypt.
He moved the family for Jesus. Jesus was not safe in Israel so Joseph uprooted the family, sacrificing the life he had for the family.
Before Paul says “wives be subordinate to your husbands” and “husbands love your wives” he says “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Joseph, in taking Mary (who was pregnant) into his home and taking the family to Egypt was following God’s will.
What does ‘being a family’ mean for you?
Do you pick a spouse who brings you physical pleasure and is willing to do things for you or do you seek a spouse that helps you to be become a better spouse, finding love and in finding love, find how God is calling you to live?
I wrote a paper in seminary that used a similar passage from Paul and titled it “Mutual Submission”. In the paper, which is on my website, I describe the mutual submission as to one another.
That was ten years ago. I still believe what I wrote then (or I won’t still have the paper on my website) but as we celebrate the Holy Family, I think we can extend the “mutual submission” to the whole family, mother, father, and children to submit to one another (making sacrifices for one another) and to submit together to God.
In this a family becomes what we call “domestic church”, an image of God’s love, living that love. It begins with coming together as a family to church.
That’s why I enjoy seeing families in church, together. It’s great to see people in church period but I find a special joy in finding families coming to church together. It doesn’t matter the age. I can look out in the pews and see multiple generations of families, not just parents and children, but grandparents too; three generations (sometimes even four) sitting together. With the families I am thinking of the youngest generations are in their teens and the oldest is often retired but I would say that in every one of the families, it started with bringing babies to church, establishing the importance of God and coming to church early in life that it can become part of who we are on a core level.
In doing this, we follow the example of the Holy Family.