Homily, Holy Family C
Many of you know already that I come from a fairly large family. I am the youngest of nine kids in my family, so you can readily imagine that it was not always easy for my parents to keep track of all of us. One of my older brothers was left at our grandmother’s house on two separate occasions. I don’t think my brother minded too much, though. My grandma probably just fed him cookies until we were able to come back for him. Another time was much more like today’s Gospel. I was probably 4 or 5 years old at the time, and we had all come to church one Sunday. At that age, I usually found that the best use of my time in church was to sleep, so I laid down in our pew and closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes again, all the lights were off, and I was the only one in the church. Eventually, someone from my family came back to get me after they received a call from someone who thought they recognized one of the Schmidt kids sitting on the curb outside of the church.
I share these stories with you because I think we all have similar stories in our own families, times when things didn’t go quite right or according to plan, when you didn’t have the perfect parents, perfect siblings, or even when we ourselves were not the perfect sons or daughters. If there ever was a perfect family, it would have been the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but in today’s Gospel, even they are not free from tension and anxiety. St. Joseph was Mary’s husband and served as the legal father of Jesus, but Jesus also knows his heavenly Father and wants to stay a bit longer in his Father’s house before returning to their home in Nazareth.
If you think your family has nothing in common with the Holy Family, take a closer look. St. Joseph and Mary had to learn, often through trials and sufferings, what it would mean to raise this Child of God. In Matthew’s Gospel, shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph is warned in a dream to take Jesus and his Mother and quickly flee into Egypt to protect the Child from those who sought his life. Joseph and Mary had to work hard to provide and care for their family. They had to put up with the rumors and gossip surrounding Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. Jesus had a human family with human struggles and human love. Jesus accepted everything that is authentically human and raised it up in his divinity.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus accepts the tensions of human relationships, showing his human Mother and St. Joseph that his divine relation to his heavenly Father is what is most important. But Jesus also returns with them to their home in Nazareth, where he works hard at carpentry with St. Joseph for most of his earthly life. He works to balance his responsibilities to his human family while always keeping his eyes fixed on the face of his eternal Father. We can learn from Jesus and the Holy Family how to balance the various things in our lives that compete for our time and attention. They can help us to evaluate our priorities and to readjust them when they become skewed as we try to balance faith and prayer, family and friends, school and work, the things of time and the things of eternity.
Most of us get caught up in the things of this passing world. We see things with a human perspective, but we fail to see the bigger picture. We fail to realize that the things we experience every day and the people we come in contact with are signs that are pointing us to God; the human is meant to lead us to the divine. Even the tensions and anxieties, the conflicts and feuds that can arise give us another opportunity to renew our commitment to one another, to grow in love and patience, and in the hope of all being gathered one day into the eternal dwellings of God, into the family of his Saints, whose fellowship we already share through this Eucharist. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph remain with us always, to help us through any difficulty and to rejoice with us in the mercies of our heavenly Father, which always exceed even the best of our human families. May the Holy Family strengthen our commitment to one another, our love for each other, and help us to keep that eternal perspective, always seeking the face of our heavenly Father in the midst of our daily activities.