Today, the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, the Church reflects more deeply on what began in Bethlehem and continued in Egypt and Nazareth, namely, the “Holy Family.” Christmas is essentially a family holiday, not because we take vacation time at home with whatever we consider our families, but because God recreated the family itself on Christmas Eve. Joseph and Mary became a family that night because God gave them a baby.
I went shopping yesterday for another few dozen Christmas cards, and had to try four stores before I could find Christmas cards with Jesus on them. The culture that tries to remove Jesus from Christmas is like a teenager embarrassed about being seen with his mother in public. We know she is our very life, but we can’t possibly be seen with her. So we’ve made Jesus invisible in Christmas, although we all know he is there, and it wouldn’t be Christmas or even a Happy Holidays without him, but we don’t want to be seen with him.
God’s design and subject to his authority
The same is true for our notion of “family,” even in our post-Christian culture. We all know that what St. Paul says about family life is spot on, but we can’t say it in public (COL 3:18-21):
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
The ET Decadence
I can remember watching the famous movie ET in 1982. I knew even then that the mentality behind this movie spelled the decadence of the family in America. It portrayed the single mother of the two children as just plain dumb and the children as intelligent, despising their clueless elders. And America accepted this deformed, loveless, anarchic image of the family. No one criticized Stephen Spielberg for his wicked depiction of family life. In fairness to Spielberg, his concept for E.T. was based on an imaginary friend he created after his parents' divorce in 1960. Thank you, parents of Stephen Spielberg, for messing him up, so he could mess us up. Do I need to say that no family is perfect, and some are quite imperfect? But even the most dysfunctional family can look toward the Holy Family rather than the ET family. Even the evil of divorce can lead to sanctification, if we aspire to be like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph rather than settling for the emptiness of the secular “family.” We can all be holy by committing ourselves to God’s plan for the family rather than giving up on the whole project.
“Family, become what you are”
John Paul said in his document on the family: “Family, become what you are.” In other words, every family is a holy family, because every family is God’s work. We have only to use the grace and identity he has given us. As God made Holy Mary the heart of the family, whom Joseph and Jesus cherished, so we must cherish her, and follow her guidance in making our families holy families. She will be a mother to our families, if we invite her, and she will bring her Son to our families, that we might become more like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth.