Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homily Sermon for Holy Family

My child, why have you done this to us? (Luke 2:48)

They say that Christmas is a family time - and indeed we make it so. There are family reunions a-plenty. There are family parties and get togethers. Christmas Dinner, more than any other perhaps is a family occasion. Even families who rarely sit at table, rarely prepare the same food at the same time for all members, even these families try at least to do turkey and trimmings and Christmas pud.

But the image of the happy family gathered round the Christmas table is a fragile one. Many families are not united. Often family members do not speak, or it they do they may flare up into an argument. Some family wounds run so deep the different members have forgotten what the original cause for the argument was. Many do not know the closeness of a family because of separation and bereavement, and their experience may be of solitude and loneliness. And even if all appears good on the surface, there are few families which do not experience stress and strain and tensions, especially in this ‘joyous season’?

Does this mean our families are failures. Far from it!

Take great consolation in today’s Gospel. Here we hear of a family trying to do the right thing, yet falling into anxiety and confusion. The child Jesus - remarkable and devout - becomes separated from his distraught and uncomprehending parents. It would be easy to say that Mary and Joseph failed to understand their child. Some might turn the tables and try to point to Our Lord himself, as if he were to blame, as if he were at fault. (Even though Luke, who tells us this story, certainly did not believe Jesus had ever sinned).

Oh no: in families it is too easy to hand out blame. It is very simple to separate family members as perpetrators and victims. But it is also very easy to encounter trials and troubles for which no one may actually be to blame.
And this is the point. Families need not fail - but they must always struggle. No family is perfect - every family is loved by God. A family that never has an argument is a family that never communicates; a family that never grapples with problems is a family that never engages with life. But a family that confronts its challenges is a family which welcomes God’s grace.

The Holy Family knew confusion and anxiety. It encounters loneliness and separation. It will soon also know suffering and death. And so do our own families. And the Holy Family will make them whole - not because we stumble, but because God will lift us up.

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