“Family Friendly?” ~ The Feast of the Holy Family ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI


Reading 1: SIR 3:2-6, 12-14

Responsorial Psalm: PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Reading 2: COL 3:12-21 or: COL 3:12-17

Gospel: MT 2:13-15, 19-23

Liturgical colour: White.

My Dearest brothers and sisters, Today, we come together as a church to celebrate the earthly family of Our Dear Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and of course, of Our Lord Jesus himself.  This feast challenges us all to look at what it means to be family.  And our eyes turn toward the Christmas nativity scene.  During this time of Christmas, we tend to sentimentalize the Holy Family – they often tend become figures of plaster and paper,  instead of being of true flesh and blood. But we forget: they weren’t all that different from how we are.  They were holy, yes that’s true,.  But they were also human just like us.

The life of the Holy Family is a life not always turning out the way in which they would’ve expected.  It’s the  life story of a teenage mother,  who conceived a child before she was married.  It’s the life story of an anxious father,  who confronted this scandal,  and who at first,  was planning on divorce. It’s the life story of a family forced to become refugees, living as immigrants in the land that once held their ancestors as slaves. It’s the story of a missing child, and days of anxious worry, stress,  and searching by his parents.

But there is even more.  It’s the story of our Lord’s violent death by crucifixion –  where his mother watched with helplessness and unimaginable sorrow.  This family was holy.  But it was also a human family.   We need these reminders.  Especially now.

The Church calendar shows us that the Christmas season is one of light – but it is also of shadow.  The day immediately after Christmas day and the joy of the Lord’s birth, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen.  Then a couple days after this, we mark the feast of the Holy Innocents,  all the children who were slaughtered by Herod.  The joy of Christ’s birth is suddenly tempered by tragic reminders of what the Incarnation cost.  And the Holy Family shared in that.

It is just a few steps here from the wood of the manger to the wood the cross. But in so many ways, the two singular events are inseparable.   One led inevitably to the other. Joy and sorrow are almost side by side, linked by sacrifice, by faith, and by love.  It is the story of our salvation.  And it is the story of the Holy Family.  he juxtaposition of those two images in this church, the crèche and the crucifix, serves as a powerful lesson for this feast. We realize that when we speak of the Holy Family, we speak of a family that struggled and suffered, like so many of us.

But: this family also knew profound hope. They trusted completely in God. They call all of us to that kind of trust. And they are with us. In our own time, they stand beside all who worry, who struggle, who search, who pray.  The Holy Family stands beside parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare.  They walk with immigrants and refugees separated from those they love.  They comfort teenage mothers and single parents.  They console the prisoner, the outcast, the bullied, the scorned—and the parents who love them.  And they offer solace and compassion to any mother or father grieving over the loss of a child.

The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God.  They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.  We might ask ourselves where we can find that kind of peace and purpose in our own families, in our own lives.

The Holy Family surely must’ve had moments in their life, when living those virtues which they had, when things seemed so desperately hard, or even impossible. But they did things most of us don’t. They listened to the angels who passed them the will of God. They dreamed.

And they gave themselves fully to God.

They made of their lives a prayer.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we need to remember where it is that we must focus on today for our guidance and to remember to look toward the Lord’s Nativity, and His Holy Family and their lives. There is our model for living: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But we need to see them in full,  also ensuring that we remember the closeness of the cross. That was their life and it’s our lives too.  Yet, through all their hardships, in a time of anxieties, difficulties, of persecution and tragedy—a time to some extent like our own –they showed us how to be people of  true faith, people of forgiveness,  and people of love.

They show us, in other words, how to be holy in our lives.

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