Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bear with One Another, Forgive Each Other!

Sunday in the Octave of Christmas – The Holy Family
2010 – Year A
Apostolic Nunciature, Port of Spain
Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6. 12-14
Colossians 3:12-21
Matthew 2:13-15. 19-23
“Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.”
You’ll find people or at least you used to find people out there who would complain about the Church placing an unattainable ideal before our eyes in celebrating the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a model for all Christian families. I think people who object to the Church’s proposal of the Holy Family as a model haven’t really looked closely enough at the Liturgy of the Word for this Sunday. The 1st Reading is among other things a marvelous Old Testament piece of Wisdom literature exhorting adults to respect and care for their elderly parents (this message is always timely). Matthew’s Gospel describes anything other than an iconic or stained glass existence for the Holy Family, we experience them here in tougher times than most must face as Joseph takes Mary and Jesus, flees Bethlehem in the night and settles his family in Egypt out of harm’s way, thereby saving the Son of God from certain death at the hands of Herod.
No, today’s feast addresses families as they really are and advises us rightly how they ought to be. Look again at the 2nd Reading from St. Paul to the Colossians:
“Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.”
Today’s feast is very much down to earth. Granted, in our world today it is not all that easy to find the classic family of mother, father and children. Death may get in the way as do a lot of choices on the part of individuals and even couples, which don’t really point to the triumph of love.

Part of Scrooge’s nightmare in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is of that family of his employee at risk because of his miserliness. Each and everyone of us here, and not only at Christmas time, has a part to play in supporting families, whether it be our own or others. We may not be strangling a family, like dear Scrooge, through our calloused behavior or neglect; let us hope not anyway. Perhaps the greatest challenge comes not from trying to correspond to St. Paul’s exhortations regarding family but coping with those big wrongs which can mark a family history negatively for decades and keep brothers and sisters at odds for the longest time. Or how often is it that we encounter an adult son who feels wronged by dear old Dad, and yes even granted that old Dad may indeed be at least somewhat to blame for the situation, still the son clashes regularly and violently with his father over things which cannot be that important? Or that daughter who chooses unresponsiveness or withdrawal rather than engaging her mother?

Each family’s history is unique and it would be wrong to think that there’s something all-purpose to be whipped up in the blender and applied to all those wounds, imagined or real, which keep people apart. If I had one point to make it would be this, namely that the Lord knows our family trials better than we. In faithfulness to the love of Our Lord, the Church seeks to speak to real families where they are and call us to that fullness of life and love in family which is doable precisely because of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

On this Holy Family Sunday, I want to invite you to join me in turning families and their hurts, turning them all over to the Lord, your relatives and friends and mine. Ultimately, in most cases an increase in the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity would improve things exceedingly. Psalm 127, our responsorial today kind of sums it up, “O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!” Reverential fear is owed to all our family and to God out of love on our part for that significant other. This is so, because in faith we fear to offend the one we love and we hope always, always to be forgiven for falling short of an ideal which is terribly, terribly real, by the grace of the Lord Who gives us strength.

“Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.”

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