Feast of the Holy Family Reflection: God’s Project
Feast of the Holy Family – God’s Project – Luke 2:41-52
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the model of what a family should be; yet there can be only one Holy Family of Nazareth, and to be honest, this doesn’t look anything like our families. Mary, the ‘virgin mother’, holy and conceived without sin, and her son, Jesus, the Son of God. And then there is the husband and the provider, Joseph who appears in this story without dialogue, silent in the face of Jesus rebuke, “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in the home of my Father?”
Ouch! This is a reminder of our own seraphic father, St Francis, who strips himself of clothing provided by his father Pietro Bernardone and standing naked in that courtyard of Assisi, declares, “from now on I have only one father, who is in heaven”. Like Francis father, this is also the last appearance of Joseph in the saga.
A child bride and new mother, with her labourer husband, fleeing from the violence of despotic leadership to become refugees in a foreign country. This is a story that is all too familiar in our world. A story that for so many ends in rape, torture, rejection, exploitation, and even death. We remind ourselves that this same refugee, Jesus the Nazarene, points to these refugees of today, and says, “Here is my family, my mother, my brothers and my sisters.”
We object, rationalise, after all ‘blood is thicker than water’, a reminder that family bonds are everything. When we say that ‘blood is thicker than water’, we are using the term ‘blood’ in the same sense as ‘blood relations’, those in our immediate family. It is often used as a means to shame family members who side with trespassers and outsiders. Holy Scripture affirms something quite different. ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’; we have the whole thing back to front.
The ‘water of the womb’, our family relationships, are secondary to the ‘Blood of the Covenant’. It is only by redemption through this ‘Blood of the Covenant’, that reconciliation, purification, sanctification, and union with God become real. We can only call ourselves ‘blessed’ in terms of this foundational relationship with God. It is only when we start from God’s totally unselfish, vulnerable, and free Love that we also learn the Way to Love in Truth.
Jesus states that no one can be a true disciple unless he or she first ‘hates father, mother, wife, husband, children, brothers, sisters and even his or her own life’. Family ties can become idolatrous when we allow these bonds to get in the way of the higher dictates of Love and respect within our common destiny with creation and as the human family.
For all its sacredness and importance, natural family must always be subservient to the higher family, the family of charity. Jesus, himself, clearly affirms this when he says, “Who are my mother, and brother and sisters? Those who hear the word of God and keep it!” This is God’s project and the blueprint for our journey into the Heart of Love.
We all belong to families. Many kinds of relationships bond us to certain people and separate us from others. Blood, ethnic origins, language, gender, country, religion, political affiliation, ideology, a shared cause, a shared enemy, a shared history, or even a shared wound; these divide us from some and form us into a certain natural family with others.
All these families are good… but only when it is prepared to step aside at each and every point where it finds itself blocking fundamental Love and respect for the needs of the larger community. All groups must ultimately be subservient to the family of humanity and the non-negotiable demands of Love and respect. When membership in any group blocks God’s project, it becomes, at that moment, idolatrous.
This is the process by which we exclude others and create scapegoats. Family is sacred, but, unless these relationships submit and are moulded to the higher call to Love and respect, it becomes the golden calf. It is then that we follow our ambitions away from God’s blueprint for God’s family, creation, and our lives. This other road leads to much suffering, sadness, and ultimate despair.
At this time when very little is considered sacred or holy, we must seek to understand what it means to be holy, to be blessed; to identify tangible practices in our lives where we, together with parents, grandparents, foster parents, family members, and children come together to learn that some things are sacred, deserving of our reverence and worship.
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