Feast Of The Holy Family 2023
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: Dec. 31, 2023
There can be peace in the middle of the storm!
It is well documented in tornadoes of even the highest wind speed, that the center of the storm is quiet and calm, even though everything around it is going crazy!
Sometimes, we might see life like this, if we watch CBC or CNN news each day we hear of wars in the Middle East and the Ukraine, wildfires, drought, flooding; high inflation, the price of food and housing, and season of viruses – Covid, flu, RSV.
This storm of constant negative news battering our lives each and every day can be overwhelming, if we think that we are alone, and our only job is to survive.
And yet, when reflecting on the gospel reading today, I think this thought could have been on the minds of Mary and Joseph!
We sometimes think life was perfect for the Holy Family – all dream like, like our statues and stained glass and paintings of the Holy Family.
They are great role models or mentors in the faith life, not because they are perfect, but instead because they endured the storms of life and thrived in their faith, their joy, in love and with peace.
What did they really endure? How about:
- Mary as a pregnant teenage who was not yet married and the judgement, she would
have received from the local community.
- There were living in a land occupied by the Romans with strict rules on how they were to live.
- Travelling 100km from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey when Mary was 9 months
- Giving birth in a stable with barn animals, no bed, no relatives, no friends and only strangers to help.
- Having to leave Bethlehem as refugees when Jesus was around 2 months old to escape Herod and go 200km to Egypt, leaving Joseph’s carpentry business in Nazareth.
- And later, Joseph dying and leaving Mary a widow before Jesus was even 30 years old and finally of course Jesus unfairly being crucified before his mother’s eyes as the crowds denied him and sent him to his death.
You can be sure that during a few of these events, Mary and Joseph must have said: “How do we endure during these storms?”
And they would have focused on their relationship with God, put themselves in His hands to follow the journey of life that God had asked them to live as parents of Jesus.
I think sometimes that we all believe that what is going on now is not normal…but what is normal? Normal really is accepting the unpredictability of this world. To accept that each day a new challenge may come, and yet, with a close personal relationship with God, we can not only endure but shine forth God’s love.
As we sang in the psalm today –“Happy are those who revere, honor, worship God, and walk on His path, in His ways.”
We are happy and thankful, not because everything is going perfectly, but instead because we know that we do not walk alone, we walk with our God by our side!
We rely on God no matter what comes, and peace will be with us, and we don’t worry about our actions controlling outcomes, but knowing that God will be acting in our lives and those around us to bring forth His plan.
But how do we do this? How do we walk in His ways? What are the daily actions we are to follow?
St. Paul tells the Colossians and tells us the answer: put on the virtues of the Christian life, and tap into the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives! He tells us in the 2 nd reading that we are God’s chosen ones, and He has made us holy and beloved!
As God’s chosen ones we are called to have:
- Heartfelt compassion and kindness – which means to have consideration of other’s situations with love and understanding and feet ready to move to help when called.
- We are to have gentleness and patience bearing with one another – we are to fully accept people for who they are, their weaknesses and faults and flaws, and allow them worth and space in our lives.
- We are to forgive as God forgives us. How many times has God forgiven us and taken us back in life? This same perpetual forgiveness will allow us to forgive 70×7 also!
- And of course, on top of all of this, wrapped in our lives, encompassing all, we are to put on love! As St. Paul told the Colossians and the Corinthians, love conquers all and is the greatest of all virtues.
- And finally, when we have asked God to come to us in this way, we feel the peace of “shalom” – the peace knowing that God is in command, and we are not. The peace in knowing that we have one who loves us unconditionally, whatever may come in life or how much we stumble on the spiritual journey.
- With all of this knowledge of God’s incredible love for us, we will be truly thankful and sing with joy to the Lord in our hearts!
- We know that God has accomplished all, our job is only to accept it and be thankful – you just have to enjoy it, you don’t have to make it happen!
This is truly the lesson of the Holy Family!
They lived in a world of war, sickness, poverty and stress and yet the tapped into God’s virtues despite the incredible challenges they faced in life.
We need to remember that Mary and Joseph accepted God’s plan; they didn’t come up with it! May we remember the Holy Family in our times of trouble, remember His promises and we will know that:
There can be peace in the middle of the storm!