Feast of The Holy Family
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: December 26, 2021
When will it end? When can we get back to normal? How many more things will we have to endure?”
This question is being asked I think by every one of us right now with the 5th wave of Covid, the Omicron wave now upon us. When will it end? When can we get back to normal? Will we ever get back to normal?
And yet, when reflecting on the gospel reading today, I think this same question was on the lips of Mary and Joseph!
How many things would they have to endure in raising this child, the Saviour?
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.
But we really do not do them any justice with this way to thinking. They are great role models or mentors in the faith life, not because they are perfect, but instead because they endured the ups and downs of life and maintained their Christian faith, their joy and peace and love.
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
- Travelling 100km from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey when 9 months pregnant (my understanding from personal observation is 9-month pregnant women don’t really travel easily)
- Giving birth in a stable with barn animals, no bed, no relatives, no friends and only strangers to help
- Having to leave Bethlehem when Jesus was around 2 months old to escape Herod and go 200km to Egypt, leaving Joseph’s carpentry business in Nazareth.
- Starting a new life in Egypt for 3 ½ years before the angel told them it was safe to return. Again, they would have to leave another place of employment and make the dangerous trip back to Nazareth with his wife and young child.
- The gospel today in which Jesus was in the temple doing his Father’s work, but Mary and Joseph so scared after 3 days. (I lost one daughter for 5 minutes in the mall and that was enough)
- 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: “When will it end, when can we get back to 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, the explosion of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
He tells us that we are God’s chosen ones, and He has made us holy and beloved!
As God’s chosen ones we are 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 – what a great visual – 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 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 operated with these virtues despite the incredible challenges they faced in life.
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 when we cry out to God:
“When will it end? When can we get back to normal? How many more things will we have to endure?”