Sirach 3:2-16, 12-14 Colossians 3: 12-17 Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
A family I know has developed a tradition over the last years of going as a group, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to a Christmas tree farm. There they select and cut down trees for their respective homes. This year, a grandson in the group, picked a tree that was not attractive. Some might call it ugly. It appeared to have two trunks. He chose that tree to take to his family home because his father, who was not with the group that day, had once said that “Every tree has a home.” Hearing about this suggested reflections to me for this Feast of the Holy Family.
In many respects, families are different now than they are often remembered to be. Very little about family life can be taken for granted. Mobility has allowed families to be separated by miles and even states. Multiple marriages have led to a variety of roles and even a confusion of roles within a family. Single-parent families are far more frequent than many of us might remember. Illnesses, dependencies, and the demands made by employment and support offer challenges to the manner in which family life can be lived. The images often portrayed in the media or reported in the news can further add to the confusion. All of this can be lamented and bemoaned.
If we give it some thought, however, we realize that the Holy Family we recall today was certainly not picture-perfect. There was a pregnancy outside of marriage that posed a dilemma which made divorce a possibility. Foster parenting was a reality of this family. Then, they were refugees when the child was an infant followed by a long trek to their home. And when the son who had been born was an adolescent, he caused his parents anxiety.
Whether in contemporary society or in the Holy Family described to us in the Scriptures, things were not perfect, like that tree that appeared to have two trunks. It is not the appearance that is significant, however, but the environment, the setting, the “home” that can give beauty. No matter the circumstances, it is the family unit in whatever form that is the first place where one learns to live this gift of life. It is in the family unit that one is able to learn and experience love and care and respect.
With these thoughts in mind we can recall what our loving God said to us through inspired writers. In the wisdom of Sirach we have an ideal presented to us. The honor and respect that is to be shown to a parent can be expanded to include love and respect shown to all persons who are a part of our lives. Through Saint Paul we are reminded that no matter the circumstances of our natural family, we are also a part of a much greater family and are united to one another through a common bond with God our Father. We are to reflect that union by living as persons of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and most especially, love.
However family life might be experienced by any one of us, whether that be in our memories or in an ideal image portrayed for us in the Holy Family, there is a home for that misshapen tree which each one of us is. It is the home we share. It is the home that is found in the faith and trust we have in union with our good and gracious God.