Interestingly, this year, the Feast of Christmas and the Feast of the Holy Family occur back to back on Saturday and Sunday! I do hope you all had a happy time with your families for Christmas dinner. But it takes more than a festive Christmas dinner for many families to really have a great time with each other. Bringing a family together requires the patience to listen, the selflessness to forgive, the commitment to heal and mend. To be a family is to seek out and bring back whoever is lost, to look beyond behavior to understand what is prompting such anger, bitterness or disaffection, to put aside one’s own expectations to respect another’s perspective.
It may come as a surprise to many when I say that the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus – whose feast we celebrate today – was not an ideal family as we have been brought up to believe! This family understood all too well the struggles and challenges of staying together as a family in their situation because they too had their share of challenges of communication between spouses and between parents and the teenage Jesus. Gospel vignettes give us inklings to their struggles: Matthew, the Evangelist, says: “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.” (Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23). Why? They had to escape Herod’s murderous wrath. As is clear from the infancy narratives (from Luke and Matthew), Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family experienced heartache, fear, misunderstanding and doubt, but together they created a family of love and compassion, of nurture and acceptance. That is how the Holy Family becomes a model for us to deal with our own family’s challenges.
One easy way to make every family member feel accepted and loved is to express words of appreciation. I don’t mean that you simply say “you look great” or “you did wonderful.” Instead, think of some way each member is contributing to your happiness. Say, for instance, “Oh Brad, when I see you playing with your sister I feel so happy and grateful that you and your sister are enjoying each other.” “I wanted to tell you Erin, how much I enjoyed the funny stories you say at the dinner table!” Even if you think it is difficult, take a moment to think about what this person brings to your life that you wouldn’t have without him or her. It may be joy, laughter, spontaneity, support, fun, play, peace, etc.
Merry Christmas and a happy Feast of the Holy Family! We raise up all parents and children in prayer, especially those who experience the pain of separation and single parent families who heroically face the challenges of life. As we will soon ring in the New Year 2022, may we all experience more unity, love and peace in our families and communities!
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal