Your Messy Family is Holy!

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 26th, 2021 – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - Luke:41-52

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In was during my lifetime that a special feast was created by the Catholic Church for recalling and celebrated the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was to be a special day for thinking about family life, theirs and ours, as it participates in our lives with God and as part of the life of the church. I had dedicated my professional career of close to fifty years as a theologian, professor and writer on the life of the family. This seemed quite worthwhile given that most of us would list family life as a major part of our life history. We were born in a family, we live in family settings (which often change) and so many die in the presence of other family members. Just like Jesus did.

But there’s a problem which I noticed early in my career as a theologian. Extraordinarily, little was written about the holiness of family life in the almost two thousand years of church life. While there might be many reasons for this, I learned that part of what I saw researching the place and role of family life in church literature. This was the simple fact that many Catholic Church scholars were neither married nor did they live their adult years among other family members. They were monks, nuns, or priests. Many lived alone or in groups dedicated to monastic and/or convent life. I concluded that the lack of thought about family life in church circles was not so much that it was not valued, but for many, it was simply not a part of their adult Christian life.

I also learned something else. Briefly, if something is not part of one’s everyday experience, it tends to be idealized. So, when family life (which might include both marriage and parenting) is examined from afar by these theologians, what is presented is, let’s say, romanticized.

Yet, an exception to this is certainly today’s gospel. It is a favorite of mine. Here’s Jesus, on the verge of adolescence, “doing his own thing” while ignoring his parents. After celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem, the parents of Jesus left for their home in Nazareth. They headed home in separate groups, walking for days (!) when Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was not with either of them. They returned to Jerusalem, found him in the temple area, and instead of Jesus apologizing for this “misunderstanding,” Jesus admonished them! Such behavior would be grounds for “grounding” today!

Well, they worked it out, returned home together and life continued. Although, I would wonder, probably, not the same as it was before. Reality replaced idealism – still it was holy!

©David M. Thomas, PhD


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