HOMILY: Choosing to Be Part of, Be Made Holy by, Family

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph | December 27/28, 2014

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This homily is based on the second reading (Col. 3:12-17) and themes found in the Gospel reading.

So I’ve come to realize that my view of family is  tad more expansive than most.

Now, it would be easy to credit this wider view to the choices I have made in recent years.

I mean being a religious automatically redefines what it means to be family.  For with the profession of three simple vows I gained hundreds of brothers.

I am also a teacher.  And as my students will tell you, I don’t need children of my own for I have 49 of them.

But when I think back on my life, I realize that family lines have always been blurry.

For I have always been surrounded by people who have become more than just friends.

I look around this Church and I am filled with memories of men and women who became like second sets of parents and grandparents.

Angela Foltz sitting behind my family at mass each week, encouraging me to never stop singing.  Bringing little bags of treats every holiday.

Mrs. Kepler training me as an altar server, teaching me how to run Vacation Bible School.  Fanning the flames of my love for service, for the priesthood, for teaching.

The Vargo family offering me a second home, in which I shared in their home-cooked meals, their family game nights and their milestone moments.

Fr. Mahoney taking me under his wing and showing me that my life could follow a different path from my peers.  And that this path could still bring me joy, purpose and fulfillment.

I think back over the years and I am reminded of the countless friends who became like brothers and sisters to me.

Friends who held me while I cried and laughed with me until we couldn’t breathe.

Friends who saw the best in me even when I doubted or questioned.

Friends who have travelled from across the country to sit through ceremonies that were important milestones to me.

I’ve come to realize that family has always been about more than bloodline.

A lesson that our Holy Family reminds us of as well.

It is easy to look at the Holy Family and see an idealized model of a husband, wife and child.  And yet, this image overlooks the crucial fact that Joseph had no biological relationship to Jesus.

The only ties that bound Joseph to either Mary or Jesus was his choice.  A choice made in faith.  A choice with consequences that would reverberate throughout the centuries.

A choice to accept both Mary and Jesus into his life knowing that he would be forever changed.

A choice that Jesus would remind his disciples about throughout his ministry.  Again and again, Jesus would stress that what is truly important is not who we are related to, but how we treat those to whom we are related, to whom we relate.

And it is this same choice that we are presented with this day.

Do we choose to embrace the family that God has given us? The family formed by blood and by baptism.  A family composed of sinners and saints, that spans generations, that refuses to leave anyone behind,

Do we choose to open our hearts to this family recognizing that we too will have our hearts pierced?

By those who refuse to return our love.  Who walk away from our embrace.

By words spoken in anger and prejudice.  By deeds done in ignorance and malice.

By watching those we love grow and change, transition and leave.

By those who will break out hearts.  Who will cripple our ability to trust again.  Who twist our very love against us as they neglect us and abuse us.

By those irreversible goodbyes that come in funeral homes and hospital rooms, in nursing homes and cemeteries.

Do we choose to look to the Holy Family as a model of how we find holiness?  By looking to the qualities that they chose to cultivate in their relationships with each other.  Qualities contained in our second reading.

Choosing to be gentle in the face of violence and agression

Choosing to forgive in the face of resentment and bitterness

Choosing to be kind in the face of cruelty and apathy

Choosing to be patient in the face of stubbornness and rigidity.

Choosing to love in the face of cynicism, doubt, despair, and hatred.

This choice is not easy.  Being part of a family is never easy.  But it is where we become holy.

May we choose to love, my friends.  May we choose to say Amen to one another!  And maybe we too will give birth to Christ in our lives this Christmas season.  May God be Praised.

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