Sunday, January 20, 2008

Homily from my parish, just wanted to share with our readers.

The Feast of the Holy Family
30 December 2007
Fr. Bob

Is your family holy?

Excuse me, but the question is not going to go away. Is your family holy?

I suspect, if you’re willing to take the question seriously, your mind immediately goes to the most recent moment you had trying to get your reluctant kids ready to come to this mass; you may think back to the fights you’ve had with your spouse about religious practice; or if you’re divorced, the pain of a broken home immediately makes the question unwelcome to even think about. For some of you who’ve raised your families, the question might provoke in you thoughts of your adult children who’ve left the practice of any religion in spite of your best efforts and even some nagging; and/or you catalogue the list of your adult grand kids who don’t practice anything – are sleeping around, living together without the benefit of marriage, or are divorced so often now you’ve lost count.

So if you let yourself go there, the question for some is swiftly dismissed – and maybe even with a little touch of cynicism – so you answer: Holy? Hardly. As if that summary judgment is the end of it. Question asked. Question answered. “So get on with it Fr. Bob. And don’t push us – life is hard enough without having to be ‘guilted’ by the priest.”

Yea. I know it is. That’s exactly why the question can’t go away. Precisely because life is hard; and precisely because family relationships are incredibly fragile things; that’s exactly why the question can’t go away. And because of a deep love for marriage and family life – I must not avoid putting it before you. “Is your family holy?” is not a question of guilt – but the only wake-up call to authentic happiness that you can have as husbands and wives and as families.

Is your family holy?

To get to the root of this question, one has to sift through the rubble of life caused by a heaping pile of bad personal decisions. Because in the end, to answer the question of whether or not your family is holy – is first and foremost an exercise of self-reflection and not finger pointing. If your first instinct in assessing the holiness of your marriage and family is to point to the failures and faults of others in the family – then you’ve already gotten to one of the roots of the problem: You. For the greatest thing you can contribute to the holiness of your marriage and family life is the unbridled, unrestrained, no-holds-barred, let-nothing-get-the-way, pursuit of your own personal holiness. And if you can’t first see how you’ve failed your marriage and family life; and if you’re not first committed to being the holiest husband, the holiest wife, the holiest mother, the holiest father, the holiest son or the holiest daughter – if that isn’t your first and most treasured priority in life, then the cynicism you have about your marriage and family life – or the bitterness you bear toward your parents or siblings is of your own making. You’re responsible for your own misery. And blame is merely cover for your spiritual laziness.

Having said that – it is true, nevertheless, that sin can strike us from behind through the sin of others. Terrible wounds can be inflicted upon us by the spiritually lazy in our homes. And hurt can really hurt when it’s those we mean to love most who hurt us. What then? What is the recourse for those in family life who want holiness but live with the unrepentant? Or what is the path for those who for real and legitimate concerns for their safety and well-being are separated from the unapologetic? Each story here is profoundly personal and each story must be reverenced for its uniqueness – but this can be said truly to all: Christ crucified bleeds for you. And that same redeeming blood washes over the unrepentant one in your life in the hope that one day their sin will be made clear and they will fall to their knees in horror at what they’ve done in sinning against love and return to the Father who will embrace them with mercy. But until that day – your only savior is Christ. In him alone is your consolation. It is enough for now that you join your sufferings to the Crucified Christ who was born to bring light to waiting hearts. You are not alone. And holiness is still possible. Holiness is still your calling, no matter how fractured things may seem to be. Holiness is yours, not by going around, not by going over and not in spite of this struggle – but by going through it. Just like Christ.

That first Christmas, that family was made holy not because things were perfect. For pete’s sake: They didn’t have money. They didn’t have a home that night. It was a barn. With sheep, and goats and all the smelliness they leave behind on the floor. Relatives gossiped about the pregnancy. And they fled from death threats. Good grief: perfection in this sense was not the issue. This family was holy, not because the external things were perfect in their life. It was holy because of the child they welcomed at the center of their universe. The Holy Family was holy because Christ was the center of their life; the center of their being. He was their everything. It was holy because they oriented everything to Him and they lived only for Him. And there is not one family represented here; not one person here who isn’t capable of that. Not one.

And so I ask again for love of you: Is your family holy?

This question will never go away. Thank God.


kritterc said...

Tracy - Such a great sermon! Thanks for sharing.

kozimom said...

That's an excellent question and sermon! Thanks!