On the Sunday after Christmas, the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. Looking out last Sunday over our parishioners at The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brockport, it occurred to me that the time to start talking about families is now (all the better to celebrate the Holy Family later this year.)
We are entering into a long period when families get together, remember people who have died or for whatever reason, won’t be with us this season: Thanksgiving, Advent, the whole Christmas season.
So let’s talk about families, which come in all sorts of sizes and shapes: traditional two-parent families, single-parent families, couples who have no children, families of choice, blended or adoptive families. Single people have extended kinships that are, for them, family. Religious congregations are families, so are intentional families, the families of our neighborhood and world.
Family life is precious- whether it is our own personal family, where our weaknesses are accommodated and our victories applauded or whether it is the family of the universe to which we belong. This is a time to consider the ones who are alienated from our family and what can be done to restore that relationship.
As we gather over the next six weeks or so, I hope we can bear within us the consciousness of the companionship of God, who helps us deepen and treasure the many aspects of family life, and actively cultivate respectful, tender attitudes toward one another. God is our model in this, since God is a family. God loves families with a lasting love and wants our various families to be whole.
Here’s a helpful summary of the power and value of family offered by the moral theologian, James B. Nelson:
Each of us needs a place where the gifts of life make us more human, where we are linked with ongoing covenants with others, where we can return to lick our wounds, where we can take our shoes off and where we know that within the bound of human capacity, we are loved simply because we are. Because that human need will not die, the need for the family will not die. That human need and its fulfillment are one more reason for giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day.
Gracious God, hold our family close to You. In our comings and goings, let our hands and hearts show welcome to all who belong to us. Help us to realize they belong to You as well. We pray in the name of our Brother and Lord, Jesus, and with the tenderness of the Holy Spirit. Amen
~Joan Sobala, SSJ