Feast of the Holy Family – Homily from Father Jeff Fleming

I share with you today another homily from Father Jeff Fleming, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Missoula.  Again, this homily feeds our spiritual hunger and invites us to recognize that we are all family!  I invite you to go to the CTK website and save the homilies page to your favorites so you can visit it weekly to read Jeff’s ongoing homilies. – Rosemary

• Feast of the Holy Family • Christ the King  • December 29-­‐30, 2012 

I wonder if when we hear ‘holy family,’ we might have a mistaken notion that everything was perfect and easy in this family we call Holy. We might think that they are nothing like our families. So let’s remember some of what this family faced.

Think of the scandalous circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy, the disturbing pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth. Think of having to travel to another town, right when the baby is due. Not finding room in Bethlehem; the arrival of smelly shepherds and magicians from the East…. Things certainly don’t feel perfect.

Imagine the fright and terror of having to flee from a mad king that is intent on killing your young son – and who is willing to kill all the first-­born male children in the area, just to get him.

Imagine the joy and fun of traveling to the big city of Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. This is his first trip to the Temple. Imagine sharing the sights and sounds, the activity and the energy of the big city. And then while traveling back home, you discover that your son, Jesus is missing. For three days you search, all the while your heart is being ripped apart. Finally when you find him in the Temple you hear Jesus’ strange response: “didn’t you know that I had to be in my father’s house?”

Think also of the times that aren’t recorded in scripture:

  • Imagine the joy Mary and Joseph shared when Jesus took his first steps, spoke his first words;
  • Imagine all the times they gathered around a table sharing meals, conversations and playing games;
  • Imagine Joseph and Jesus fishing together, working in the shop.

Now image when, as an adult, Jesus puts down his carpenter tools and wanders the countryside as an itinerant preacher? Large crowds follow him at first, but then things change. Your son is arrested, condemned as a criminal and then brutally put to death on the cross, as you kneel at the foot of that cross. And then three days later — the mystery of the resurrection.

This certainly doesn’t sound easy or perfect. It isn’t how we would write the story; but here’s the thing: God came to us telling God’s story and it is full of surprises and wonder.

I invite you now to think of another holy family, your family— yes even the crazy in-laws and out-­laws and uncles. Remember your joys and struggles, the successes and disappointments, the ups and downs, the bumps and bruises. Families are strong and fragile. Remember the love.

I invite you also to think of holy family of the church. We have our own struggles, our ups and downs, our disappointments and our joys, our own crazies. We certainly are not perfect, but again there is love.

In this season, we celebrate our God, who took on flesh in Jesus. We celebrate family. But maybe we miss seeing our holy family because we are so busy with whatever seems important at the time. Maybe this is the same reason that the people in the first century also missed it. We can get so busy, with ‘important things’ like work, prayer, and life, that we do not notice our holy family.

But family is where God moves through the world: disguised as our children asking us to play, in the street worn man on the corner whose eyes we try to avoid, in the woman who made our coffee this morning, in our crazy families.

We are all brothers and sisters. We are family, holy, surprising, fragile, imperfect, a bit scandalous and crazy and even maybe a little smelly. But we are family and inside this holy family, we do not judge who’s in and who’s out. Love understands, love forgives, and love holds us in union in ways that take into account weakness, hurt, complexity, absence and even sin. God keeps us together in family and walks with us.

This is the holy family that we celebrate; this is who we are!

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