By Frank Lesko, Coordinator of Justice and Peace
Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Joseph, Mary and Jesus are celebrated not just as individuals, but as a family unit. In doing so, we open the door to celebrate all families and the potential each family has to be a vehicle for God’s grace.
Jesus was born into an ordinary, humble situation yet in an extraordinary way. Mary put complete trust in God. She allowed this extraordinary conception to take place, even though it went against all the expectations and duties of her culture. Likewise, Joseph took in this young girl, adopted her newborn and raised him as his own. In doing so, he is the Patron Saint of adoptive parents. Mary and Joseph followed God wherever he led them.
Scripture tells us some shocking things about families: “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). How are we to celebrate the family in light of statements like this?
Furthermore, Jesus tells us about the ultimate appeal of friendship, not family: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
While there are many layers of historical background to these statements, it can be said in a general sense that adoption and friendship are celebrated. Relationships of choice are lifted up in comparison to blood relationships of pure obligation. This is not to say anything bad about families related by blood, but it does show that God’s love transcends ties of blood.
As a Church, we work hard to witness to God’s love by reaching out to those who are most easily forgotten. We reach out to the homebound, those who are sick, those who are dying, those who society finds it easy to forget. We remember the dignity of all human life, from the innocence of a fetus to the prisoner who is locked away to the stranger in another part of the globe. We reach out to the poor and hungry, not just in our own community but anywhere in the world.
By reaching out to everyone, The Church witnesses to God’s Holy Family. We reconsider what it means to be family. We focus on the bonds of love and choice rather than the bonds of nationality, bloodlines and familiarity. The Holy Family of 2,000 years ago stirs our imaginations to wonder what it means to be part of God’s family today.