THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Now it was the practice of His parents
to go to Jerusalem every year for the
Passover festival; and when [Jesus] was
twelve, they made the pilgrimage as usual.
St. Luke 2:41-2
Full readings: 1Samuel 1:20-28; Psalm 84; 1John 3:1-2, 21-24; St. Luke 2: 41-52.
Of all the times of the year, Christmas is about the only time when members of the family make an effort to be together and to live in reasonable "peace and goodwill". The Holy Family image draws the average family around the crib, to sing carols, attend Midnight Mass, open gifts and share Christmas food in togetherness. For a short time disagreements, differences, disputes and disillusions are set aside and even forgotten. Although perhaps not recognized as such, the focal point for this togetherness is Christ in the cratch, and what it shows is very simple but also shattering. When Christ is the centre of our lives, there is always a sense of oneness within the family or any other group because each individual is trying to serve Christ in love and not one self. Christ-like love reaches out to touch others in our understanding and commitments to our families and other associates. So what is possible on Christmas day is also possible for the other three hundred and sixty four days!
One of the features of Christmas is sharing and doing things together. Alas for the main part of living we have become a race of individuals, with various members of a family often not meeting one another at all for days on end, even when they live under the same roof. This individualism is intensified when at week-ends various members of a family frequently do separate things and visit different places. The family outing has almost disappeared! Consequently nuclear family life as the normal concept for living is fast disappearing.
To-day the Gospel is an account of the Holy Family going to Jerusalem together as they always did for the Passover festival. Although the twelve years old Jesus, unbeknown to His parents stayed on in Jerusalem to converse with the religious teachers, the overall picture given is that the Child Jesus was obedient to His parents while He grew up. Christ knew what it was like to live family life, where all activities were shared by all members. The close bond began in the home at Nazareth, remained with Jesus until His end when His last concern from the Cross was for His Mother.
The Holy Family in Bethlehem and later in Nazareth encourages us to hold the Family as the model for living as it shared all aspects of life with its mixtures of joys and sadnesses. It is only by sharing we can have unity and closeness. This is achievable if we live out Christ's command to "love one another", as "I have loved you", so evident now at Christmas, when Love "assumed this mortal body,/Frail and feeble, doomed to die".
The Holy Family and to-day's reading from the first letter of John also remind us that we are members of God's family too. We are indeed God's children created in His image through His tremendous love for us. As Christians the responsibilities we have towards our nuclear family flow over to our brothers and sisters in the world-wide family. In a real sense we all belong to one big family as we all have a common Father, God the Father, and a common Mother, Christ's bride, the Church. "We who are united with Christ, though many, form one body and belong to one another as its limbs and organs." (Rom.12:5) However if we are not "one close-knit body in the Holy Spirit" with individuls serving their own interests rather then "the welfare of the community, how ... can we preserve the mutual relation and service of the members, and their subjection to ... Christ," asks Basil?
If only we could at Christmas realize this, then I am sure we would have different attitudes and responses to one another. We would care for one another as a fellow brother or sister to begin with, and Christ's kingdom of love would be extended further and further within this world. Let us this Christmas love one another as Christ loves us, and sow the seeds of His kingdom in the hearts of all we meet.
Help me my dear Saviour to be a loving and a responsible member within my own family, and to extend that loving care to all my fellow brothers and sisters in Your world-wide family. Amen.