Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Family: Little, Broken - and Still Good!

Several years ago, Disney offered a film called “Lilo and Stitch.” Stitch is an alien who crashes on Earth, in Hawaii, and is assumed to be some sort of dog. He ends up in a shelter and is soon adopted by Lilo and her older sister. Lilo and her sister’s parents have been killed in a car accident, and the two of them are on their own together.

After some little adventures, Lilo and Stitch become great friends, and the little alien learns much about life and love on Planet Earth. Eventually, aliens pursue Stitch from his home world, and they mean to return him home. At the end, there is a beautiful scene where Stitch asks to say goodbye to Lilo and her sister. “Who are they?” the alien asks.

Stitch responds, “This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It’s little, and broken; but still good. Yeah. Still good.”

Here on this Sunday in the Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – the Holy Family. Jesus, the Son of God; Mary, a girl who conceived “miraculously,” with no earthly explanation; and Joseph, a man who was promised to a virgin who now was a mother of a child that was not his own.

It’s a little family – certainly not conventional, some might even say "broken" – but a family nevertheless. And certainly good.

In these days after Christmas, it is good for us to reflect on the Holy Family and to pray for our own. During the holiday season, many of us gather with our families – our biological relatives, our friends, and those whom we choose to be near. It is a time for family, however they are expressed. None of them are perfect. Many of them are broken. But it is into exactly this sort of unit that God chose to come and be raised as a man.

Certainly, we have our own family issues: estrangement, codependency, dysfunction, arguments, et cetera. Today, we hear that Mary and Joseph had their own with Jesus, as they search all over for their lost boy, only to find him hanging out in “his Father’s house.” Any parent can imagine the eye-rolling and lip-biting that probably went on in Joseph and Mary.

But, it was still good.

Many times, we with “broken” families look to others and compare ourselves. Sometimes that might make us feel inadequate, self-conscious or resentful of that brokenness. However, the good news of this feast is that God looks at our families in much the same way that Stitch saw the one he found – “little, and broken, but still good.”

Even in that brokenness, we can make our own families places of holiness. The readings give us some direction for this. First, we must make our families places of prayer. Pray with your families; teach your children to pray - our loud, deliberately, as specific times.  They will not be people of prayer unless they learn from their parents.  Bring them to Mass with you - regardless of how obnoxious or disruptive you may think they will be.  Jesus asked that just such as these "come to Him."

Second, the family should be a place of gratitude for one another. All is gift, or as St. Therese of Lisieux said, “All is grace.” When we see our relationships as gifts to one another, our families can grow strong – as Jesus did, “in wisdom and grace.” Then, in our families, we can learn how to relate to others – to be gifts to others. A strong family can bring about a strong society, grounded in gratitude for one another and respect for others.  Even Hannah, in the first reading today, recognized that the child she prayed all those years for was a gift from God, and she offered him back to God.  She did not cling selfishly to him but allowed God's will to be done.

Finally, the family must be a place of love, which leads to “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” A family cannot be holy without love; and forgiveness helps to make that family strong, even in brokenness.

There are many ways to be a family. There are many sizes of families. There are “big, fat, Greek” families; there are little and broken families; but they are families nonetheless. We gather here as another sort of family – a family of faith, centered on Jesus, who chose to be born into a family like ours.

We may be little at times; we may be broken often; be we are still good in God’s eyes, and worth that greatest Gift of His love. Today, we pray for our family and for our families. May God help us to be strong in love and grateful in our relationships. These are the people God has placed in our midst – to help us to grow in wisdom and in grace.

Then, we can recognize that we may be little and broken, but we are still good.

Yeah. Still good.

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