The greatest thing I remember about this celebration of the holy family is the way one particular priest used to start his sermon on this day. His opening remarks were “I always have trouble with this day” and “Whenever I think of my family, Holy doesn’t come to mind”, or ” I don’t know how I am going to preach this one!” Obviously when he thought of the Holy Family, his own family experiences came to mind. In that family he could easily see the flaws, the conflicts, the peculiarities that are unique to each individual family. He thought of mom, dad, brother, sister,grandma,grandpa,aunt, uncle, the success stories, the black sheep, trials, tribulations, dirt, and gossip that are the makings of most families. His conclusion was, Holy Family? I don’t think so! Though I always remembered his opening remarks well, I am certain then he would begin to examine family in a more scholastic, and even churchly sense; that was his job after all. He knew the family responsibilities to provide for the children, and he knew academically how this related to Church doctrine: just as parents provide for children, God provides for us. He knew families for their sense of governance;they are arguably the smallest unit of government and with government comes duties, obedience and responsibilities. These too mirror mans duties to God. He knew the dynamics of families were sometimes rocky and difficult to interpret; so too are mans relationship with God. Sometimes directions get misinterpreted and sometimes boundaries get crossed. While he enjoined comment in the fragmented parts of family life because of the humor involved, I recall he also mentioned his families ability to pull together in times of trouble. That bickering and arguing back and forth is the theme of much of the bible. As we do with our immediate family, so too do we do with God. In fact every dilemma and discussion this priest had about his own family, also pertained to man’s relationship with God.
The next point to examine , since he was a priest, was who was the Holy Family? Most of us pew warmers would have snickered Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The curmudgeonly priest though looked at first Mary. Mary was mother, though through the intercession of God. Next is Joseph, who wished to first quietly divorce Mary because she was “with child.” An angel of the Lord though stepped in and said “don’t do that!”Jesus as it turns out was not the son of Joseph, but rather the son of God. From the priests lengthily examination of his own family and the “Holy Family,” he reached two conclusions. The first and most important was that the holy family did not simply consist of the three Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. God was a member of that family and that should never be forgotten. God always is part of our family, even if we are “alone.” The second conclusion was that the “Holy Families” Family life was as messy as his own. Though glorified in scripture, an unbiased reading of the description of this family certainly describes something conflicted and unconventional, especially by first century standards. That family faced trials, joys, and agonizing sorrows just as we do. They persevered though and offered a significant amount of guidance for us mere mortals. The final points though are as life goes with our family, chances are that mirrors mans relationship with God. That relationship between man and God includes many of the same experiences we experiences in our own “Families”, love, disobedience, falling down, and being picked back up. Our “family relationships” should be in line with that relationship our God has with us; to understand a relationship with a family might benefit from trying to interpret your relationship with the father. Finally, if anyone thinks that the “Holy Family” didn’t face challenges, re-read your scripture and you might learn something. You might learn how many challenges they faced, and how that worked through them. In looking at that you might learn how to work through the challenges of your own.