This Sunday is one of the easiest and hardest Sundays to preach on. It is the easiest because we all have an experience of family whether it is good or bad and the hardest because we all have an experience of family whether it is good or bad. We all know that there are many different definitions of family in our world today: mom and dad and kids, dad and dad, mom and mom, grandparents raising grandchildren, single moms and single dads, blended families, children being raised in the foster care system, and the list continues. Looking at all the definitions of family that we have, these are the things that seem consistent
Basic unit of society no matter how the family is structured
A group of people with some common purpose
A group of people from a common stock and united by certain convictions or a common affiliation
It is in this basic unit of society that we learn about how to be a man or woman of faith and part of the community of faith. The first two readings challenge us how to be a good family no matter the make up: respect one another, take care of each other, be kind to each other, admit when we are wrong, forgive each other, put on Christ, pray together and do everything in the name of Jesus Christ. If we could practice this in our basic units of society, in the family of the church, in the family of the world, then, what a different world we will live in. The make up of what a family is not important: it is how the family lives together.
One pain that I hear a lot from parents is that their children have walked away from the practice of the faith and the Church. What I want to say to you is that you have not failed. All you can do is to lay the groundwork of faith by showing your children what it means to follow Jesus. You can only plant the seeds. It is all I can, too. I am a firm believer that every single person at some point has to make the choice to follow Jesus or not. We cannot do that for anyone; we can just witness about how faith is important to us. I am not above a word of challenge once in awhile, but I leave that up to you. Together we can only entrust them to the Blessed Mother and St Joseph that their prayers will lead them on a journey back to Jesus even if they go on a detour.
We have a common purpose: to continue the mission of Jesus. We are all brothers and sister in Baptism (our fundamental connection) and it is Jesus who binds us together. It is essential that people see us a Holy Family, not perfect, but people who strive together to be followers of Jesus. No one can exist alone and stay healthy: healthy, emotional or spiritually. The same thing is true as people of faith. Small faith sharing groups, common worship and mission are part of the family of faith. Jesus will use us to draw people to him, to increase this parish family, by our faithful witness to him. Again, it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be authentic. They will know we are Christians by our love for the rest of human kind.
So, even though this maybe the hardest and easiest Sunday to preach on, it is the opportunity to celebrate what Jesus’s birth transformed us into: men and women loved by God and given a common purpose to spread the Hope he brought into the world by His humble birth in Bethlehem and into a family that showed us that Love can conquer all the difficulties that life will throw at us.