JUST A THOUGHT
Thinking of the Family
With Christmas day falling on a Sunday our liturgical antennae may have gone a bit askew. Ordinarily the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas would be the Feast of the Holy Family. But this year there is no Sunday within the Octave, and so instead we get the Solemnity of the Mother of God. It means that the Feast of the Holy Family was celebrated on Friday last, and it also means that we will celebrate Epiphany on the 1st Sunday of the Year rather than the Baptism of the Lord. All a bit confusing wouldn’t you say. However, I think we can be excused for saying a few things about the family on this day dedicated as it is to the Mother of Jesus.
When we think of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph we can if we’re not careful treat it somewhat sanctimoniously. We see images that portray Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as the epitome of serenity and perfection, displaying a model of piety that is unreal, such that we wonder if in their relationship Mary and Joseph ever had any disagreements, or if Jesus never forgot to do his homework or tidy his room. Of course the gospels themselves don’t give this impression—think of the anxiety the 12 year old Jesus caused his parents by staying behind in Jerusalem, or the sleepless nights Joseph must have had in wondering about what to do when he was informed of his wife’s pregnancy. It all boils down to understanding that Jesus had an experience of family life in all its joy and sorrow, just like every one else. He was taught how to behave, how to acknowledge the place of God in his life, how to form a good conscience and how to honour his mother and father, and he was probably admonished too when he got things wrong. But that’s the way we learn how to get things right, so that when the bad times came along, we can fall back on a shared and loving context, to which and in which, we can turn to each other for support and understanding, rather than begin the blame laying game, or the finger pointing moralising. And that context for the Holy Family, as it should be for us, was the all embracing love of God.
So perhaps this context of God’s love for our families, is something for us all to think about. When our own issues and concerns about our children, our parents, our grandparents are giving cause for concern and worry, let us not neglect to consider what impact our faith can have on helping us to overcome both our own and their anxieties too. Our responsibilities for each other are that we should always be prepared to offer a listening ear that seeks to understand and help resolve differences and difficulties, even though situations may have arisen that have hurt and upset us. Stable relationships are undoubtedly the most suitable ones for bringing up our children, in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
As we begin this New Year, let us once more turn to the Lord and re-dedicate our families to God’s love and care. Let us ask him to bless all the families of our parishes, that they may be strengthened and made holy. That spouses and parents may honour and love each other, and that children may learn to cherish the wisdom and experience of those who care for them in the Lord’s name.