Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holy Family, Human Family

All too many among us (myself included) can't seems to relate to the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph). After all, they are all three superstars in the saintly firmament.
I am feeling this distance especially keenly today. I have spent some time this holiday seasons with both of my sons and my dad and step mom as well. I felt a little put off by the experience. My parents are elderly, live three states away and we find it hard to talk about religion since my conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. They are both Missouri Synod Lutherans, and so we just don't talk much about our faith life, although all of us have deeply held beliefs. Likewise, with my sons who are teenagers talking about spiritual things is often quite difficult.
Even so, I cherish the hope that someday, somehow, my own fractured nuclear family, my parish family and my community household (being formed as I write this) will all be used by God to do God's work in my life.

The families and other communities of which we are all a part function as God's sandpaper, used to rub off our rough edges and train us in loving service to the other. In that way, we begin to resemble more closely the heavenly family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their divine communion is based solely on self giving love, not mutual attraction, advantage or some other less durable glue.

A word about family formats. By family I mean nuclear June and Ward Cleaver families. But I also mean single parent families, blended families, households of unrelated persons (my own situation) and all the other permutations we see in this broken world. Yes, it is most desirable that we all be raised by a mother and father who are in a relationship of life-long commitment. However, the reality is far different.

Any or all of the above can be the schools where God teaches us virtue and love, as our Holy Father Benedict indicated in the Introduction of his Rule:

And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord.
In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.
But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity,
do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation,
whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14).
For as we advance in the religious life and in faith,
our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments
with unspeakable sweetness of love (Ps. 118:32).
Thus, never departing from His school,
but persevering in the monastery
according to His teaching until death,
we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13)
and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.

It really is tough to persevere in this school, especially when your classmates become a bother. But the effort is worth it. Another Benedict ( Pope Benedict XVI) echoes a similar theme:

The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love.... The family is also a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity...

O God, who in the Holy Family left us a perfect model of family life lived in faith and obedience to your will, help us to examples of faith and love for your commandments.

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