Holy Family

Recently, I landed on a blog site and under the section of “More about me” the author wrote the following, “I used to want to change the world. Now I would just like to leave the room with a little dignity.” I’m sure all of us have daydreamed from time to time about changing the world. Maybe it was imagining ourselves larger than life as a rock star or movie star. Perhaps we daydream of being a charismatic leader, triumphing over some ominous injustice or evil that is threatening the existence of the world. Maybe we daydream of being president, a missionary, or an influential author.

Then reality sets in as I look around my own small world and the not so glamorous or exciting people in it, including a much less impressive me. I’m faced with the never ending stream of bills to pay, the mortgage payment, the mind-numbing traffic jams, the death of a friend or family member, the grisly evening news, a serious illness, the dirty dishes, and oh yeah, the laundry that needs to be done. There, too, are the everyday faces of those who commit unspeakable violence, the innocent faces of the poor, and the faces of self-proclaimed “righteous” ones who can so easily pass judgment on others. Making it though the day unscathed by major mistakes or breakdowns and with some semblance of self-respect and dignity, can often seem like a major accomplishment. These days of Christmas and the celebration of the Incarnation are in danger of being like any other day of the year.

It’s not unlike what the Holy Family must have experienced. God could have chosen any family for Jesus—a king, a prophet, maybe a rabbi. In fact, God could have chosen to spare His Son the flesh and all that goes with it entirely. Instead, Jesus is born to a poor young virgin, a self-proclaimed “humble servant” and “handmade of the Lord” and to an unassuming carpenter. This family is where God chose to foster His only Son, the King of Kings, the Savior of the world.

In the same way, God has chosen for me a community. I am given to my family, my co-workers, my parishioners, my fellow citizens, my people, by my Creator who knows me and what I need. That includes those I would just as soon not be around, those who have hurt me, people I am tempted to resent. He invites into my life even those who’ve been unfair, judgmental, and blaming toward me and those who have wronged me.

So it is that, like Jesus, we are placed in the care of, and later charged with the fostering of, a family chosen for us. Like Jesus, we grow and develop, then nurture and encourage, within the domestic church He’s given us with wisdom and love. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are the Holy Family, but our own families are holy simply by virtue of being of His design. They are extraordinary in their ordinary commonness, whatever our particular family looks like. Maybe it’s a religious community, spiritual friendships, parents and siblings, or spouses and children, all in traditional and not-so-traditional forms. I have a difficult time admitting that sometimes it’s tough for me to hang in there with these, my people. Sometimes even my seeming to accept or tolerate them collapses under the weight of my false self. It helps me to imagine that the Holy Family must have faced similar problems. It was their faith in God and love for one another that sustained them.

God calls me over and over again to make a space, to crack open a place in my busy life, to break through my ego’s facade to be more present to my family. He calls me to hope, love, and mercy in a crazed and noisy world and a cluttered and busy home. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds me that at home is usually the first place I lose sight of compassionate relationship. My husband and children are usually the easiest to take for granted. If I can listen deeply enough, if I can crack open my heart wide enough, I can hear the Christmas message in the everyday work of love—finding the patience to be with my loved ones in a more full way. If I ask, the Lord will grant me the courage to refrain from fighting back against them when they have hurt or wronged me and to see the hurt from which that comes. I can pray for the grace to love always even in the midst of behaviors or words I dislike. God’s unceasing invitation is for me to get my false-self out of the way and accept that my entire life and being comes from my dependence on God, and that my family is His gift to me to help me open my heart to Jesus. My calling is to respond to the people God has populated my family with in a way that opens their heart to Christ as well.

“In this life we cannot do great things;” says Mother Teresa “we can only do small things with great love.” I don’t need to change the world. Jesus has already done that. But I do need to constantly evaluate and adjust my reactions in the world. If I can allow the ordinary and common events in my everyday life and my interactions with others in my life, especially my holy family, to be infused with great love, then at the end of the day, I can rest knowing that I’ve done my best by God. It’s knowing that the Incarnation has changed everything and my dignity in being a child of God is anything but ordinary and common.



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