Feast of the Holy Family
December 29, 2019
Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
Merry Christmas! We have just celebrated the birth of Jesus. A season in which we wish happiness, joy, love and peace to relatives, friends and to the whole world. Leif, in his Christmas Reflections reminded us that Christ comes to bring light instead of darkness, peace instead of war, and joy instead of depression. He also invited us to remember when we heard angels sing in our hearts.
In Luke’s gospel, the familiar one, we hear; the annunciation by the angel to Mary that she is to be the mother of the savior, the trek to Bethlehem by Joseph and Mary, finding only a stable in which Jesus is born, the angelic choir singing alleluias at this birth, and the shepherds coming to see this great happening. All of which brings peace, joy, love and happiness to the world.
Today we celebrate the Holy Family. A family of love and peace, and also a family fleeing for its life to another nation, a family crossing a desert to get to safety, a family entering a strange country having to navigate in an unfamiliar language and culture.
In this Christmas story, from Matthew’s gospel, we hear; Joseph’s wondering what he should do with Mary and her unplanned pregnancy, the political leaders seeking to destroy the child, Mary, Joseph and Jesus running for their lives in the dead of night to a foreign country, Herod’s killing of the innocent children in Bethlehem, then when Herod dies the Holy Family returning not to their hometown, but to a backwater village in Galilee, Nazareth.
Fr. Bryan Massingale remarks, “This is the Christmas story not told to children, and therefore, not often reflected upon by adults. Yet it is part of the gospel. Without Matthew’s account, our understanding of Jesus is incomplete, if not whitewashed. Without it, Christmas comforts but does not challenge.”
There was an article in the Oregonian on December 19th about the Claremont, CA, Methodist Church who, in their creche, separated the Holy Family and put them in separate cages. The Pastor, Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, said, “We’ve heard of [the asylum seekers’] plight; we’ve seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated. We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.” Quite a statement!
We can be thankful that Egypt did not close it borders to refugees, did not separate children from their parents, did not put them in cages without adequate heat or access to sanitation or medical care.
Sr. Barbara Reid says, “Those living in the host country are challenged by the gospel to consider what kind of welcome they would want to offer newcomers if they were none other than Jesus’ own family.” Or as Leonard Pitts Jr. says in his article in the Oregonian, “The evil – and the word is apropos – being done in our name at the border depends for its success on our willingness to watch in compliant silence as fellow human beings are “otherized” and “monsterized,” stripped of their individuality, remade in the image of American fears. Which rebukes both the gospels and simple human decency.”
There is much goodness and much evil in our world. God works through human beings to bring the love, joy, happiness and peace that the birth of Christ brings. And God, through us, works to defeat and destroy all evil. Let us, then, let Christ be born in us this Christmas season and so let all the values of Christ loose in the world so peace and love can become a reality.
As Brian Doyle says it, “I know all too well that the story of the world is entropy, things fly apart, we sicken, we fail, we grow weary, we divorce, we are hammered and hounded by loss and accidents and tragedies. But I also know, with all my hoary muddled heart, that we are carved of immense confusing holiness; that the whole point for us is grace under duress; and that you either take a flying leap at nonsensical illogical unreasonable ideas like marriage, [and religious life and single life] and marathons and democracy and divinity, or you huddle behind the wall.”`
So let us contemplate what Scripture tells us, that God is always with us, encouraging us, guiding us, loving us, helping us to grow into good and holy people. God helps us discern when we should flee evil as the Holy Family does in the gospel today. God also helps us discern when we need to confront evil as Jesus did in his teaching, healing, death on the cross, and in his resurrection.
Let us celebrate the joy, peace and love of Christmas, celebrating the mysterious reality of God assuming human life and walking among us. Let us also always remember we need to work with God to bring this joy, peace and love alive in our world.