Homily, Holy Family B
Something that almost all of us have in common, when it comes to our family and relatives, is that we didn’t choose them. We never sat down before we were born, to look through a brochure of available families, before deciding, Yep, that’s the one, those are the people I want to be stuck with for the first 20 years or so of my life. Those are the people with whom I always want to have large portions of DNA in common. When it comes to our friends and other acquaintances, we might be able to avoid the ones who annoy us or rub us the wrong way, people we don’t like for whatever reason, but we don’t choose our family.
I’ve been convinced for quite a while now, that it is precisely those relationships that I would not have chosen for myself, that have actually challenged me and helped me to grow the most. Think of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You see, if it was all left up to us and our own choice, most of us choose to avoid conflict, to avoid people that show us our weaknesses, we avoid people who annoy us or tell us what to do. In a healthy family, though, these things are unavoidable. In my family, I had six brothers and two sisters, and I remember fighting a lot with my siblings. And I don’t think we fought because we were bad kids—now maybe my parents would disagree—but we fought because that’s part of growing and learning for kids, and hopefully through those experiences we were able to learn some better ways of dealing with conflict.
Even as we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Simeon tells us what lies in store even for the most perfect human family that has ever graced this earth: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a Sign that will be contradicted,” and a sword of sorrow would pierce His Blessed Mother’s Heart. Not usually what we think of as the picture-perfect family, but every healthy family, every holy family in this world has joys and sorrows, conflict and resolution, pains and struggles along with victories. Real growth does not happen without pain.
And real love does not develop without a commitment to one another through the difficult times. It’s good for us to be stuck with people whom we find difficult to love. For parents and children alike, there are countless opportunities for us to begin to love even as God loves, not because of anything the other person can do for me, not because the other person is necessarily deserving of love. God doesn’t love us because. He just loves us. He made us and He chooses to love us. Our own families, all those relationships that we perhaps would not have chosen for ourselves, these are the messy classrooms of learning love, of becoming holy, of growing in patience because these crazy people force us to really practice patience. And as we really choose to love those that God has place in our lives, hopefully we’ll discover, as I have, that they are really better for us than any family we would have chosen for ourselves.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for our families and for the whole family of God. Teach us—and help us to continue to grow—through the conflict, through the messiness and chaos of our lives. Teach us that God the Father’s love for us is unchanging, unflinching, unwavered. Teach us to love like Him.