As we meditate on what it means to be a holy family, we are presented with three scriptural texts to guide us.
Our first reading from Sirach describes a blissful experience of family. All is perfect! Everyone treats one another in an idyllic fashion. Being part of the Divine implies certain traits. Among the chief traits is how well we treat our parents.
The result of treating our parents well is that we will have a long happy life. Our prayers will be heard. Even if their minds fail, we will be considerate of them.
This reading describes and ideal, perfect world. A Utopia!
Our second reading continues this theme. Although this really describes the ideal life of a Christian community, it can also be said of a family.
The terms chosen, holy and beloved speak to a New Israel: a new community of God’s people. This means that the way they act with one another should reflect this.
The reading calls on us to clothe ourselves with heartfelt compassion, with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
This past week while traveling back from Greensboro, NC, Teri and I stopped at a gas station. There were about eight pumps. One was not working. Two other pumps had cars parked next to them. The drivers of these vehicles already filled up their tanks but left their vehicles to purchase something from inside the convenience store. This meant that a potential of eight pumps were now down to five. Lines were forming – delaying everyone’s trip. Perhaps the owners of the two vehicles saw themselves as good Christians. Yet, their actions were not filled with heartfelt compassion, with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
The reading continues with the exhortation to forgive and love. It is love that binds everything together. Thankfulness and gratitude are essential. A person cannot move forward towards a life in the Divine if they are forever living in the past or hoping for something one does not possess.
The Inclusive Lectionary we use includes this sentence, “You who are in committed relationships, be submissive to each other.” This usage of the phrase committed relationships extends this admonition to a wide variety of relationships. Basically this states that we should work it out, work together, negotiate. We are called not to put the other down and not to Lord it over them.
Our Gospel tells us that from the beginning of the young family, they attempted to do everything right. They followed all the rules of Moses. This included purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus. It is important to note that the offering they made were two turtledoves. This indicated that the family was poor. Had they been in a better shape financially, they would have offered a year old lamb.
It is also important to note that Jesus grew in size and strength, wisdom and grace. He did so as any other human.
People believe that if they live right, no problems will befall their families. The idea in our first reading is that if you do everything right, you will live a long life. That God will take care of them.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus did everything right. And yet, their life was touched with pain and sorrow. I am sure that each of our families has been touched by pain and sorrow.
The reality is that no family is perfect. No family is all bliss and absent misery.
I do believe that all families are holy.
This includes those who are traditional as well as those who blended, led by a single parent, led by two parents of the same sex, divorced and remarried, those single people who live alone, and on and on.
Ultimately, families will be reviewed based on their heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. This is true not only how they treat one another within the family unity, but how they treat the marginalized, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the undocumented.
How families treat the “other” will help define the word “holy”.