DIVINE FAMILY LIVES
Sometimes I think we idealize the Holy Family. Or remember their story selectively. But the Scriptures of this Sunday immediately after Christmas indicates otherwise. This family, like…” every family,” Katherine Hepburn said in “A Lion in Winter,“ has its problems.” A child out of unusual wedlock, scandal, fleeing across national boundaries, a life on the road challenge them.
Still ancient Ben Sirach gives advice about honoring one’s father and mother and taking care of one’s parents. Colossians gives us a list of virtues that would enhance the life of any family unit, and urges us to cap them all with love, which is the ultimate bond of every human grouping. However, the Gospel passage pushes us in another direction. This is not ordinary, peaceful family life. The Holy Family is forced to flee in fear for their lives and become refugees in a foreign land. Even when they returned to Israel, they had to move to a new area probably to avoid the civil authorities. What does this sound like today? How many families around the world experience this kind of disruption?
Covid 19 has disrupted so much U.S. family life in this holiday season. We have had to stay in our homes and remain with those who live under the same roof. This has been a gift to family life and a strain for the bigger extended family in others. How many families even in our own country are torn apart by war and persecution and economic forces and even our federal immigration policies? The U.S. Bishops a few years back reminded us of our basic responsibility to welcome the stranger and to support families who are facing difficult struggles to survive. They say: “We judge ourselves as a community of faith by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. Pope Francis has highlighted this repeatedly. The treatment of migrants challenges the consciences of elected officials, policy makers, enforcement officers, residents of border communities, and providers of legal aid and social services, many of whom share our Catholic faith.” This issue among others, has divided our nation in the past election.
The weekend after Christmas is dedicated to the Holy Family. Their flight into Egypt gives us pause to remember all those in our land and throughout the world forced to leave their lands to provide for their families or to escape persecution. This pandemic has brought the Church to a new solidarity with these brothers and sisters! It is an issue of Life-in-abundance. Pastoral care and work toward adequate immigration reform will always be a concern for the children of God. The thriving of family life requires safety and solidarity.
People “giving time” away marks St. Mary’s extended family. I am so honored to work with all the parish staff and the friars of our Franciscan community over the months of this unusual Christmas season. Gordon and his schola have been working double time since March with music that link us even across live-streaming. Our thanks to them and all those who sing praises for a living. The parish leadership, staff and friars send the greetings of the season to all the families of central Phoenix community in their diverse shapes and sizes.
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM