Good evening everyone, and a very Merry Christmas to everyone!
If you don’t know who I am, my name is Father John. I’m going to be a resident here at St Charles, and I think this is the first time ever doing a 7 p.m. Sunday mass, so I see many unfamiliar faces, so I hope to meet some of you after the end of mass.
That’s great to be here with you this evening and this Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, is always designated to celebrate the reality of the Holy Family, of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We celebrate the coming together in a very mysterious way of these three people who make up a family that we called to be holy. I think it’s very providential that we remember the Holy Family during this time of Christmas, because I’m sure most of us, if not all of us, have been spending time with our families over the holidays. And of course for me, I think it’s always a great time to reconnect with my family because, first off I love them very dearly, even though we, you know, I’m not always getting along perfectly, but we’re able to rejoice in each other’s company.
Christmas is always a great time for us to come together, and we’re able to rejoice in the fact that in a very mysterious way God has brought us together to a journey through life and a way to help each other out. But, as you also know, when we celebrate Christmas and other holidays it’s not always as if everything goes right when it comes to our families, especially for those of us whose marriages, the in-laws, not may not always get along with, right? And we know that there are lots of family members estranged from each other and don’t talk to each other anymore, and holidays are also right for a time for arguments and other things like that to flare up. So we have to be honest with ourselves that in this time of family and the joy of the season, so to speak, there could also be tremendous sorrow to go through, to be tremendous times for us to really question, do we really want to be part of the families that we’ve been born into?
Yet, when we look at the Holy Family today, rather than look at them as in placing them on a pedestal as being some type of ideal for us to try to become, we should ask ourselves the question, what makes the Holy Family holy? Now if we were to assess that just by the external realities of what we can see, we probably would not be led to the idea of Holiness beliefs, as we understand it in typical Christian types of categories.
What do we have here? First off, we have a teenager who’s pregnant: Mary – chances are she was 14, and of course the guy that she’s with is not the father of the child, and she has the child outside of wedlock. And Joseph, the guy who’s thought that was going to be her protector bearer, the guy that was going to be able to see, the guy who was going to walk with Mary for the rest of her life, almost feels a little bit slighted by the whole situation – questions what’s going on, so there is a disruption between this relationship of Mary and Joseph. And yet even after the child is born, there’s more trial on the way because they leave. Where the child was born in Bethlehem and go to a foreign country of Egypt to spend time there. Here they are coming from Israel going into another land and treated as aliens . We can’t assume that they were given a warm welcome by the Egyptians. Any of us understand the history between Israel and Egypt: it was a very tense relationship, So on the surface we don’t see anything holy about this.
Arrangements for a pregnant teenager not married, a guy who feels slighted and then they go to a land where they’re treated as aliens. Yet we call this family holy, for something that we may not see based on their external realities, but definitely on how they were able to understand what was happening to them. I think to boil it down, what makes this family holy is that they were able to let go of the need to be in control. Mary and Joseph let go of the need to be in control of what was happening around them. That is what makes them holy, and we have to look at that as being the foundation for what a life with God is all about: the need to let go of being in control.
I’m sure many of us over the course of this past week felt that there were a lot of burdens on us to make sure that things go right, that people got along at the different gatherings we had during the holiday season – that the food in the preparation for the parties and things like that was all put together right, that we showed up in the right way. I’m sure that many of us thinking about buying gifts and presents and things like that were concerned about were we buying the right things, is this person happy with this gift. Clearly this is a time of the year where we feel that the burdens on us to make sure everything works out right: we want to be in control. When we want everything to be perfect, we get frustrated when things aren’t the way that we want them to be. We get frustrated with the dysfunction. Our need to be in control is what ultimately drives us many times to think that this is how we need to live our lives.
But yet, the Holy Family shows us a completely different way of living life. They showed to us that even when things seem confusing and don’t seem to happen at the right time and seem to happen out of order, that this is the time to understand it’s something far deeper and greater is happening within you, within them, than could ever have been orchestrated if we were actually the ones in control.
If Mary and Joseph were not the ones who were actually in control, where do we understand that from? We understand that from God himself: the Christ-child, the Incarnation, God becoming Man reveals that even God himself lets go of the need to be in control. The helpless baby in the manger is God. Yeah, there’s nothing about that that seems to be a God who has it all together, our God is all-powerful. Rather we see a helpless weak child, totally dependent upon Mary and Joseph for everything. Mary and Joseph were able to let go of their need of constantly being in control because the God in their midst, the Christ-child, did exactly that.
Saint Paul says that beautifully when he says that Jesus did not hold onto his divinity – something to be grasped; that rather he emptied himself and became a human being. I often say that it was almost as if you had someone who was the best piano player in the world right in your midst, but you would never know they were because there wasn’t any piano around them play. If that’s who the Christ child is, God himself, yeah, you would never know it because he’s not able to exercise the fullness of his divinity.
And how does he journey through this life in a way to continually let go of the need to be in control, which brings him to the cross where he hangs completely powerless, once again, not in control of what’s happening. Yet what the Christ child teaches us, what Mary and Joseph show to us, what the Holy Family reveals to us is that we do make a decision to let go of the need to be in control. It’s not a spirit of indifference or apathy: it’s a proactive choice in our part to say that God is God. We are not we did not bring ourselves into existence nor do we know when we leave this earth and because that is the pressing reality that we are faced with that every moments there’s no choice other than to say God you’re the one who always my life you’re the one who allows me to be whatever you want me to be you’re the one who will give me the ability to perform not just good things but great things Divine things were called to be the Christ child were called to be God’s presence in our Mists and we come once again to this Mass to receive that Christ child but yet in a different form form of the Eucharist and in the moment that we receive the Eucharist we don’t just reflect upon something that happened 2000 years ago and that’s what happened we reflect on how God actually shares his Incarnation within us to give us the full confidence that we do not do Life by ourselves that we do not need to be in control based on our own vices that were given what we need to become joyful in this world and prepared to accept the reality of being fully loved in the next on the surface the Holy Family looks like a mess and I’m sure that we can look at our lives and you think that look they look messy and I’m sure many of us will judge what other people are doing with their lives, and we could say they’re not living this type of proper life or they’re not doing things right.
But all that matters is that we hand our lives over to the One who handed His life over to us, and we say yes to the Christ-child and that’s how we share in the same Holiness of the Holy Family. May God bless you all.