Today’s passage from Colossians provides practical insights into the required qualities needed to grow in holiness within the family structure, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14). The imagery the Church gives us this week for the Feast of the Holy Family on December 28 proposes that you and I re-evaluate not only what is important in our lives, but also what we teach to our children. Saint Paul is calling each of us, but especially parents, to witness to the above attributes so as to teach their children how to bring holiness into the most intimate of Church structures; the family.
I’m sure it is far easier if your son is God and you and your wife are canonized saints to live the above qualities. Our world is not so idyllic: filled with anxiety, not-stop arguing and lots of anger. Television and movies showcase families that are at odds with each other as the norm and not the exception. Many times, parents are shown as either self-absorbed in their own lives to care for the needs of their children or possess no wisdom that could possibly help their children with the problems they face. We need to be reminded of the treasures that truly last from one generation to another. We need to be reminded that it wasn’t the extraordinary nature of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that made their family holy, but in the ways they were obedient and loved each other. This human family (including one member who is also God) mirrors the love of the Holy Trinity and illuminates God’s love to those in which they encounter. The gospel gives us one example from Simeon who experiences the love of the Holy Family when they present Jesus in the Temple, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
The question for those of us working with families in faith formation ministry is how to help families grow in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness: to know that each member of their family is one of God’s “chosen ones” and that the ultimate bond that lasts is love. Families need support and this is an area the Church can provide that the world cannot. The challenge for my family and your family is the same as it was for the Holy Family, to put each member of our family first before career, individual desires, time connected to the world-wide web and not to our family sitting on the chair next to us, the pursuit for creature comforts…really above everything except the pursuit of growing deeper in our relationship with God.
My new year’s resolution is to make quality time for my wife and step-children, but especially to witness to the qualities of sacrificial respect and love presented to me today by Saint Paul. Maybe this could be the vision statement for the Gaffney family? May the love found in the lived experience of the Holy Family help you form your family in the image of a holy family in 2015.
Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for the Department of Evangelization & Catechesis.