I remember the anticipation I felt as we drove to my grandparents’ home each New Year’s Eve. I so enjoyed the aroma of various meats, vegetables, dumplings and spices that filled the air as we arrived. Let’s face it though, as a young boy I also loved sneaking sweets just before dinner. I always thought I got away with it but I had fooled no one. My parents just watched, smiled and said nothing. They had wisely realized that these were childhood moments to be cherished, appreciated and even ‘hidden’ at times. Little did I know that in their actions I was also being taught how to treat others and deal with relationships. Over time, the education also grew and became more challenging but always provided greater insights.
Considering the impact my parents had in my life, I cannot help but wonder how Jesus, Mary and Joseph interacted with one another as a family. We honor them as role models and share our innermost thoughts with them. In many ways we feel we know this family quite well yet questions remain. For example, aside from Jesus’ early years and his time in the temple at age 12, little is known about him as a child, teenager or young adult. A single line in today’s Gospel reads, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Reflecting on this verse however, I now realize this may not represent a gap or an open question at all. It could rather be an invitation for us to consider how Jesus grew up and learned the ways of the world by watching Mary and Joseph. It could provide us with our own opportunities within our own families.
We might define our family unit as traditional, nontraditional or communal yet we all are part of the one family of God. Armed with this truth and in celebration of today’s Feast of the Holy Family, I offer the following suggestions as we continue to hone our own ability to grow and participate more fully as active family members:
Happy New Year. Endless Blessings,
Deacon Luc Papillon
When politics are intense, and contentious, when hillsides and homes are burning, when the news sources offer a steady stream of grim stories, how do we lift our spirits? How do we find joy? Where do we find peace? We always need to have an answer to these questions because every year, every age, has its own agony.
Jesus chose just such a time to enter into our human history. Rome had conquered everyone in the known world. Millions had been forced into slavery, and most others lived at the margins of hunger, making only just enough to get by, from hand to mouth, day by day. Good farmland was hard to come by; so much of it had been depleted. Lives for peasants were hard and short. Judea was just a tiny kingdom, subject to the whims of Roman emperors and governors. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem were tiny backwaters.
It was that very moment and place of desperation that the Lord chose to enter into human history. In dark times, He is the unfailing light. In uncertainty, He is the Unchanging Word of God. In your struggle, He is strength. In poverty, He is the richness of the Father. In your loneliness, He is God with you and for you. He knows your story. He can feel your pain. He shared in it in His own time, and walks with you now.
I encourage you to place your burdens at the foot of the manger, where the Creator of All reveals Himself in the helplessness of a baby. I also invite you to take from that simple gathering, birthed by Mary and sheltered by Joseph, renewed commitment to foster the Lord in your own life.
May this Christmas time bring you hope, the real hope that endures all changes and human problems. May this New Year find you and all you love, richly blessed with all you truly need. May the Infant of Bethlehem be reborn in your home and life.
I wish you and all you love a Merry Christmas, and joy in the New Year!
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