For Sunday, December 29th, 2019
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Christmas naturally brings with it thoughts of family, especially our families of origin. These thoughts are laced with myriad emotions, ranging from tender memories for some to painful memories of loneliness, abandonment, loss, and sadness for others. Unlike the Holy Family who fled the grasp of Herod, we cannot flee our family memories. We have been shaped by them: good, bad, or indifferent. Families can be a safe haven, a place of fear, anxiety, anger, and resentment, or a mix of both.
We have to navigate these family waters as best we can. If we have positive, loving memories of family, we have to listen to God’s call to share them with those whose lives we touch. If we are held in bondage to past hurtful memories, we need to find a way to walk with God on a path of healing and release from that pain and heartache. If we find ourselves living with or dealing with problematic or hurtful individuals, we have to listen to God’s voice beckoning us to find the best path to tolerance, love, and safety.
Joseph was not tethered to pride or his self-will. He listened. From listening, Joseph realized that he had to urgently leave a situation of familiarity and walk into the future of the unknown, complete with risk, apprehension, and fear. At all stages of this journey and others to come, there may have been anxiety in Joseph’s heart, but he lovingly and calmly kept things together and did what he needed to do.
The clear message that Joseph gave his family is that they were together and all were okay. We also have to learn how to listen to that voice of God echoing in our depths, do what we need to do, and communicate to those around us — those whom we love — that we are together and it is okay. If we can accomplish this within our families, we will be living as God intended a family to live. Life can be crazy, messy, hurtful, and sinful. We need a place to put our anchor, to find a bit of rest, to not be judged, and to experience love. If we know the beauty of human love, it will then be much easier to feel the spark and embrace of Divine Love. But first, we must see healing from past memories, from fears and hurts, so that we can be available to God to be used for others. Otherwise, past sins and failures will simply be repeated.
We are all called to care for human souls, those wonderful creations made and fashioned by God Himself. In building up one another, we also build up the kingdom of God. In protecting, nurturing, and tending to our earthly families, we shape the family of God. One of the hardest messages a person can ever hear is that “they are not wanted, are a mistake, or don’t belong or have a purpose.” Families have the power to inflict these kinds of painful wounds. These messages are some of the hardest to rally from and heal. Families can easily become abusive, both emotionally and physically, and are no longer places of refuge and safety.
Even for people in difficult family situations, there is always hope. If a person can see the light shining within, the very light of God, the same light that inspired Joseph to act, then they can move closer to Divine Love and know that the most important One of all feels much differently than the earthly voices they hear. They can hear God saying within: you are mine, I want you, you are loved, I made you, you do belong.
Learn to listen. God is always there inspiring, directing, uplifting, and consoling. Without God’s help, Joseph would not have been successful. We must be humble at all costs and resist all forms of arrogance and self-reliance. No matter how enlightened, on top of things, and focused we think we may be, we always walk in dim light and have to learn how to listen. God always needs to be the one to give us direction, and this feast of the Holy Family reminds us of this once again.
Seek healing for wounds that need healing. Shed the bondage of anger, resentment, pride, and arrogance and follow God’s voice to love and safety. Be for others who God is for you, worrying less about what surrounds you and focusing more on who surrounds you. Both women and men have the same goal and mission to use their gifts and talents, sharing mutual affection, to get where they need to be.
We see who we want to be and where we need to be in the beautiful blueprint given to us in the letter to the Colossians: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another … And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts …. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
There is something that rings very true and sounds very “right” as we read these words. We know that all of God’s children would be on the path to real security and happiness if this holy blueprint was realized.
While we live in a very imperfect world, we must always strive for perfection. Christmas isn’t over yet. It’s just beginning. Light still shines in the darkness and the star still shines. God is hoping that we will allow that star to illuminate our steps and allow the light of His Son to bring light to our darkness. Be humble and be kind. Be patient and bear with one another. All we have to do is get out of our own way, be willing to be led, and learn to listen. May our families become the holy and sacred places they are meant to be! Peace.
Rev. Mark Suslenko