by Msgr. Joseph Calise
I must be getting older since I find myself saying, “When I was growing up,” more and more frequently.
Nonetheless, when I was growing up, television was very different than it is today. Some might say things were more naïve like Ricky and Lucy sleeping in single beds in I Love Lucy as did Fred and Wilma Flintstone in the Flintstones cartoon series. Others would claim not naiveté but innocence, child friendly as demonstrated by the absence of four-letter words and nudity. Whatever you want to call it, television today and 50 years ago are not the same experience. This is certainly evident in the portrayal of family.
I grew up with Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best and the Donna Reed Show. Each family had a mom, a dad and kids who never had a problem that could not be solved in half an hour.
My Three Sons was a dramatic departure because it tackled the question of a father raising three sons as a widower. The episodes were humorous in a heartwarming way. They were, in a sense, the ideal that every family strove to attain.
Then came Archie Bunker. All in the Family maintained the basic sense of family but challenged the notion that every life question could be solved so easily. The Bundys of Married with Children notoriety continued on the theme that every family does not have to fit the same mold to be happy and loving. Although there was an attractiveness to the earlier innocence, the later shows often painted a more realistic picture.
The picture painted of the Holy Family in today’s Gospel is far from a Christmas-card image. When we read the text, it could actually be material for a bulletin on the 11 p.m. news. Can’t you imagine a news reporter reading the following, “Mary and Joseph, Nazarene parents, were visiting Jerusalem for the holy days and while on journey home realized their son was missing. The search went on for three days. The good news is – they found Him safe and sound. But you’re not going to believe where and what He was doing.”
Of course, finding Christ after three days in the Temple and amazing the elders all point toward His later ministry and shed light on the deeper significance of the Christmas mystery. As important as that is, we should not lose sight of the portrait painted of the personalities involved within this Scripture account.
Mary was frantic with worry. Her question, “Son, why have you done this to us?” betrays the fear she and Joseph experienced when they realized Jesus was not with them in the caravan.
Although we have the gift of hindsight, Mary and Joseph did not understand why Jesus had to be in “His Father’s House,” and their amazement was not only because they were impressed by His confidence among the elders but also because they were confused by it.
There we have the last image of the Holy Family before Jesus begins His public ministry: Mary, the loving mother with a pondering heart; Joseph the faithful husband and foster-father; and Jesus, obedient but destined. Life’s questions for them would not be answered within half an hour.
Complicated, But Holy
We revere them as the family worth imitating not because their lives were uncomplicated but because they are known first and foremost as “holy.” If we look up the definition of “family,” the responses range from “parents and child(ren) together” to “people living under the same roof” to “a common genus of plants.” However, when I researched a definition of “holy,” the first and most frequently repeated answer was, “belonging to the sacred.”
Jesus, Mary and Joseph each belonged to the sacred in their own unique way. Joseph, the upright man of faith, obeyed the angel when told to take Mary into his home so that she could fulfill God’s will; Mary’s very soul magnified the Lord with obedience; and Jesus sought not His will but the Father’s from Cana to the Cross. That centeredness on God, that belonging to the sacred is ultimately the goal of every family that wants to be known as holy. Of course, most of us are grateful we do not have to live it as dramatically as they did and are equally grateful that those were once for all time events.
But we are still called to consider God’s will in the decisions we make. If each person in the family seeks personal connectedness with the Sacred, then the family will become holy as a unit.
Father Patrick Peyton relied on this when he adopted as the motto for the Family Rosary Crusade the slogan: “The family that prays together stays together.” The actual motto, however, continues: “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”
As we continue in this Year of Faith and begin to prepare for 2013, may we strive to grow closer to Christ as individuals so that when joined with others on the same journey toward holiness our united prayer can change the world.[hr]
Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family
Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14 or 1 Samuel 1: 20-22, 24-28
Psalm 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5 or Psalm 84: 2-3, 5-6, 9-10
Colossians 3: 12-21 or Colossians 3: 12-17 or 1 John 3: 1-2, 21-24
Luke 2: 41-52[hr] Msgr. Joseph Calise is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg.