Perfectly Imperfect Family Life

12-29-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The word and concept of family is used so very often in speeches. We talk of religious families, the family of nations, the Christian family, and also the parish family. We launch this word and concept as pertaining to the ideal, whereas we know in life that no family is ideally formed or lived. Just think of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Mary is pregnant before marriage and the father is not Joseph. We realize that this is part of the sacred mystery of the Incarnation which brings about our salvation, but it is not the “ideal” family that people talk so much about. Family is about a loving bond and commitment to nurture and care for its members. When we remember the meaning and values needed in a family, we can let go of some of the outrageous, silly and rigid demands and interpretations which people have. Our readings this weekend invite us into God’s Revealed Word to remember what matters.

Our first reading is from the Book of Sirach which encourages being respectful to parents. Our author is offering the wisdom thoughts of a grandfather to his grandson. Although manners are included in the Book, Sirach is really about passing on to the future generation values which manifest concern, self-giving, sincerity, responsibility, and generosity. These are habits or virtues of being a good person; these virtues keep anyone from being a social phony or deceptive person. Sirach reminds everyone that these virtues need to be in practice each and every day.

Our reading from Paul takes initially a larger point of view and focuses on the virtues needed to have a good and wonderful life in the home and outside. He says the virtues needed for a good public life are the exact same ones needed for a home life. No street angel and home devil allowed!! Paul clearly names the necessary virtues: mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and the love that binds these together. St. Paul also urges that life within the “family of the church” should also be marked by gratitude. He also thought for a good and happy church family life there should be lots of joyful singing. We are blessed at St. Mary’s with our Music Director, Terry Kerr, our Cantors and extraordinary Choir. St. Paul would be thrilled with us.

We need to remember that very little is actually written about the family life of Jesus. Joseph is an absolutely silent person. All we really know is that he was paying close attention to discern God’s will for him. We know the same is true for Mary as found in the scripture of Luke’s Gospel. We can have faith that the family life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was founded on love and was lived out in a small town after a shaky beginning with a frightening exile in Egypt. Joseph and Mary’s lives were never easy; from the distance of 2000 years, we blind ourselves to the reality of their true daily life.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Joseph’s decision to follow the will of God. We are reminded that Joseph is a man who is open to God’s will and dependent on God’s providence and protection. This decision was fraught with peril, but guided by the grace of God. We conclude that the life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus was a life that was based on faith in God. This special family, which was not the ideal family that is often raised up before us, was certainly touched by danger and trouble, but they survived because of pure basic faith in God.

Family life is not perfect for any family for there is no perfect family. Yet when it all is said and done, the family that has an active and close relationship with God will survive the problems of life and flourish as did the Holy Family.

Father Brian