Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family 2021
Yesterday morning, as I drove to SMWS for Christmas Day Mass, I noticed how quiet the streets were. No one out driving, all businesses closed and parking lots empty. At first it reminded me of the beginning of the pandemic when we were basically shut down in fear of this new disease. Then it occurred to me. Everyone is home… with their families, enjoying the festivities of this important day.
Later in the day, I sent Fr. Tom a Christmas Message and asked him how it was going. His reply brief. Does this answer your question? I’ll play it for you (a video of chaos… kids of different ages, screaming, laughing, wrapping paper everywhere.) This scenario was happening all around us… and if it didn’t, no doubt one time or another it did.
What struck me in that short video, were three generations. The kids (3rd generation) were truly enjoying themselves with gifts and laughter, the parents (2nd generation) trying to supervise and encourage, picking up bits of wrapping paper and the first generation, sat there drinking it all in and enjoying it as much as the kids were. Perhaps they were looking back and thinking about their own childhood, at a simpler time or they remembered their own kids, (now the parents) and how they had the duty to supervise. Or perhaps, like the uncle priest who always worked on Christmas, sacrificed this time, now could enjoy his family…all the generations that he missed.
On Christmas Eve, I spoke about the challenges and difficulties Mary and Joseph experienced when Jesus was born. In one day we have moved ahead 12 years and the demands of having and raising a child continues. In the Gospel we are told that when Jesus was twelve years old, he stayed behind in Jerusalem. Not knowing this, his parents searched for him “with great anxiety…” or anxiously, but did not find him. Though they searched the whole caravan, looking for him among their family and friends, he was nowhere to be found.
We heard where Mary and Joseph found him. They found him, scripture says, in the temple. Not just anywhere, but in the temple; and not just anywhere in the temple, but among the doctors, listening to them and asking them questions. And so we too must look for Jesus in the temple of God; we must look for him among the people of God or what we call formally, the Church.
However, before we can do that, Jesus must be found in God’s first house: our families. In the chaos, the noise, the excitement, the laughter, among the wrapping paper. But as well, in the disappointments, the discouragements, the hurts and everything else that happens at home: the good the bad and the ugly.
If we have already done that or it is not possible now, we need to search for or find Jesus in another temple, the temple of our hearts. In those quiet times of reflection, thoughts, memories, questioning, pondering as Mary did… trying to piece together how God is trying to reveal Himself through us and in us. We must ask ourselves honestly, ‘Can we experience the love of Jesus in our hearts… the place where God truly dwells?’ If not then the rest is naught. This is the Feast of the Holy Family… Mary, Joseph and Jesus yes. But also, this is our feast day too. This is our day where we thank God for our family in its many disguises: our biological families, our faith families, our friend families or families with one parent… families with two moms or two dads or our work families.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has died. In an interview back in 2002, Peter Mansbridge asked him, “What worries you ?” His quick response: “That we do not understand the simple message God has given us… We Are Family.”
Until we grasp this reality and look hard, deep within the heart…at all the blessing and confusion…. until we search this temple where God resides, we will not find Jesus… the Holy One.