December 29, 2019: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - Associate Pastor’s Corner
The first summer of my priesthood, my mother and I visited the Philippines. This was effectively the first time I had ever visited, because when I visited when I was five-years-old, all I remember was bouncing a basketball. It was an amazing experience. Being that both my parents came from sizeable families, I had met swarms of extended family on both sides, saw the home in which my father grew up, said Mass at the chapel where my father was baptized, preached at the church where my parents were married, and on and on. What was funny, too, was that I got to know the Rite of Blessing a New Home very, very, VERY well--being the only priest in the family, I was asked to bless every home that my family owned in the entire province. I think I did seventeen house blessings that month.
And getting to know each part of my family was personal, touching, and subtle all the same time. Yes, I was the honored guest at each of these parties. But most importantly, I had the opportunity to meet my family. Remember, the last time I was in the Philippines was when I was five--I knew hardly anyone! This being said, it was beautiful to meet every one of these families, and be introduced to their glories and their struggles, their glad tidings and their darkness. Yes, indeed, I get to understand the nuances of the “Molano craziness” (dad’s side) verses “Cruz craziness” (mom’s side), but what was truly eye opening and touching was seeing the light and dark of each of these smaller parts of my entire family tree.
When we celebrate a feast like the Holy Family, as we are right now, I tend to contemplate, specifically, the moment soon after today’s Gospel. Namely, I contemplate the moment Joseph is waking up Mary and the Child and they are fleeing for their lives. Because for that family, it was hardly about unicorns and plushtoys. One way to contemplate today’s feast is thinking about the controversy and derision both Joseph and Mary endured when Mary came back to Nazareth 3-months pregnant (with no one knowing who the father was). Or why Joseph wanting to “divorce Mary quietly”. Or the fact that Joseph was humiliated to house his family in a barn when they made it to Bethlehem. All too often, when we think of the Holy Family, we are content with setting them in the creche scene, static and plastic. Yet, the Holy Family were (and are) dynamic, endured glory and darkness, suffered and well as rejoiced. Whether it receiving magi and shepherds, fleeing for Egypt, coming back from Egypt, receiving criticism or even losing the Son of God for nearly a week, this family experienced nearly everything. In those few verses in which we enter into the Holy Family’s life, we experience the fullness, basically, of most familial dynamics.
Lastly, please pray with me for healing among all broken families. Christmas and New Year’s, with all its lights and gladness, is sometimes a dark and difficult time for some in our community and world.
Either way, may we seek the intercession and example of this Holy Family, and may this Family be OUR family too, relying on their prayers and help to transform us into the saints we are called to be.
~ Fr. Isaiah Mary