Feast of The Holy Family year B
‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.’ When William Butler Yeats wrote these lines, he might have been speaking of contemporary family life. The origins of this Feast of the Holy Family are found in the 17th century, the beginning of the industrial age. In a church whose bloodline goes back two thousand years, three or four centuries is not a long time. In the first sixteen centuries of our church, there was little need to offer the Holy Family as a model inasmuch as family life was largely in a healthy condition.
There is an existential unease in many Catholics about offering the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a model for the human family. Joseph had angels speak to him in dreams, Mary was visited by an archangel who told her she would be the mother of the Son of God, and Jesus was Almighty God Himself! The temptation is to say ‘Come out of the clouds, Father, and get real.’ How can we relate to the Holy Family?’ For a start, many believers have not fully taken on board that Jesus was/is 100% human like the rest of us. Some feel that his human nature was a tool used by his divinity to draw people to God.
This stems from a deep ambivalence, discomfort, and even embarrassment with the conviction that God has a human body and that human drives, desires, functions, and needs are the place of divine revelation and encounter. Christianity itself has been hesitant about affirming the goodness of the human body, seeing it as playing second fiddle to the soul. Our failure to see violating the bodies of immigrants and persons who are different as issues of faith, or the suspicion and unease around human sexuality that continually plague our sexual ethics all tell us how the body has been a problem rather than a resource for our following of Christ.
Christmas does not only celebrate the birth of a child, it awakens our faith to the birth of God in all humanity, Emmanuel (God with us). The great St Augustine had this to say: ‘For what is now called the Christian religion existed from the beginning of the human race’- Retractions, 52. God was living, incarnated in humanity before Christ. As the Dominican Meister Eckhart wrote: ‘The incarnation is always happening, but what good is it if it is not happening in me?’ Family is the locus of love, the ‘God who is love – and those who live in God, God lives in them…’ – 1 John 4,16. Whether we are aware of it or not, God is in the flesh of our families. The Holy Family is not a moral standard to live up to but the signal and sacrament of God’s presence in every family.
Fr. QQ – 12/23/2020