Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all were able to spend some time with family this week. I don’t have a very large family but even so the holidays have always been those rare moments when the whole extended family gets together. And the word that always seems to describe it best is chaos. Multiple conversations all happening at the same time, my aunt teaching my niece to run people over with her remote control car, one oven with five things that are supposed to be at different temperatures and times, too many people in any given room… the usual family chaos.
Today we celebrate the Holy Family. We tend to imagine them differently than our own families – serene statues and images of three people filled with peaceful silence – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any chaos. In today’s Gospel the Holy Family is leaving Jerusalem after their own religious feasts, and along with all their extended family and friends comes the same chaos that you and I know. But that all turned serious and probably terrifying for Mary and Joseph when they realized that Jesus was lost to them. Mary even exclaims when they finally find him, “why did you do this to us?” You can hear in that all the emotions of a mother and that we ourselves have had at one time or another: the fear, the anxiety, the frustration when someone we love does something we didn’t expect. Even when he explains that he must be in his Father’s house, the Gospel says that Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what he was saying.
But what happens next is what shows us that they are the Holy Family, what makes them a model for us to follow: Mary holds all these things in her heart, and Jesus comes with them and was obedient to them. The Holy Family is not holy because they are emotionless, they are holy because they listen to each other and they love each other. Mary could have let the remnants of her anxiety overtake her love and yelled at Jesus and to demand a different answer that made more sense… but she didn’t. Love was first in her heart, and so in patience she trusted her Son. Jesus could have let put up a fight and tried to explain what he was saying and what his Father’s house meant to him… but he didn’t. Love was first in his heart, and he gave honor to his parents by obediently responding and returning with them.
Family relationships are not easy. It is the ones that we love the most, who we are the most passionate about, that can most easily stir up our hearts with emotions. They are the ones that we can’t ignore, that can push every button we have… but who are also the most needed part of our daily life, and that will be with us for as much of our life as we can imagine. Love must be first in our hearts. Every anxiety, every frustration, every disappointment must be subjected to love if we want our own families to be holy. It’s not the chaos… it’s how we deal with the chaos.
God created us to have human relationship. We are literally born into a connected mix of people. And even if you’ve seen that family strained or even separated, you have family here in this place. Whatever your family is, large or small, blood or friendship, nearby or distance… face the ups and downs with love first.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.