HOMILY: Where We Find Holiness

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph | December 26/27, 2015

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

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on all of this week’s readings.

Let’s be honest, my friends.  Family can be complicated.

And the longer I have had the privilege of serving as a priest, the more I am reminded of this truth.

That family is often much more complex than we give it credit for.  Bonded together by blood and marriage, reconfigured by divorce and engagements, expanded by adoption, births and friendships, rent apart by feuds and estrangement, divided by geography and religion, politics and football teams.  Family is an ever-changing reality in which each of us is always a part.

Which is probably why I appreciate the readings for this Sunday.  Because in their practical wisdom and their real life drama, the Scripture writers remind us that being family is one of the most challenging and yet one of the most important journeys we can ever undertake.

Take the 1st reading for this morning.

Listen to the line again . . . Take care of your father when he is old; even if his mind fail, be considerate of him.

How many of us have watched a loved one slowly decline from dementia or Alzheimer’s?  How many of us have sat beside bedsides and reminded our father, our grandmother, our sister, our wife who we are?  We have known the anger, the exhaustion, the pain that comes with walking on this journey.  And yet, we keep walking.  We keep sitting by that bedside.  We keep saying I love you, even when they no longer respond.

The author of the Book of Sirach did not romanticize this call to honor one’s parents.  For he knew what it meant to have one’s father lose his mind.  And yet, that did not stop him from taking that journey.

And in this journey, one can hear the author quietly reminding us that these acts of kindness will never be forgotten.  That in these acts of kindness, we are learning what it means to love and to be loved in return.

Or take the 2nd reading for this morning.  

What family has not needed a steady supply of the virtues that Paul encourages us to embrace?

Whether it was the parents who needed patience with the toddler who just scribbled in crayon up and down the hallway or the teenager who needs to be picked up after drinking too much one Friday night.

Or the humility of a spouse to admit when they are wrong and bite their tongue when they are right.

Whether it was the compassion of a grandmother who cradled her granddaughter in her arms after she filed for a divorce or the kindness of a sibling who made sure he was home to watch his brother play in the big game.

Paul does not live under any illusion that family is somehow easy or that these virtues will come naturally just because we are related.  And yet, he too is convinced that in taking this journey, in applying these virtues, we will discover what it means to love and to be loved in return.

And then of course we have the Gospel, in which we are reminded that at times, everything will seem to go completely wrong.

Let’s be frank . . . This Gospel is any parent’s nightmare.  Losing your child for three days in a major city with absolutely no method of contacting them.

And yet, in the frantic search and the ultimate discovery, Mary and Joseph serve as models for us in our own moments in which everything seems to fall apart or go completely wrong.

When we burn our Christmas Eve dinner as the in-laws arrive or accidently insult our Great-aunt.

When we lose our temper and scream at our spouse or children or parents.

When we relapse after years of sobriety and need to confess that to the ones we love.

When we deeply wound our loved one by the words we say, the choices we make, or the apathy that we show.

When we realize that our marriage is falling apart or our partner is leaving us.

When we must say goodbye as our beloved family member slips away into an eternal sleep

For it is in these moments that we learn from Mary and Joseph that family is bigger than our brokenness.  Our lives do not need to be perfect.  We will make mistakes.  We will screw up.  And yes, sometimes life will be an absolutely mess.

But it is family that propels us to keep going, to keep seeking, to keep working, to keep journeying on until we find the one we seek.  

The Christ present in each and every member of our family.  Even when he is hard to find.

See, I am convinced my friends that the Holy Family was not a family because they all were already holy.  I believe that they became holy by being family.  By learning and losing, by letting go and moving on, by living and loving, they became holy.

And this is the call extended to each of on this feast.

To allow our family to be the place in which we too find holiness.

To allow our journey as family to be the journey in which we learn what it means to be kind and to forgive, what it means to accept one another for who we are, even as we challenge them to become who they could be, what it means to be patient, to be humble.

What it means to love.

Happy Feast Day my friends.  Let’s go make our families holy.  May God be Praised.

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