In the Midst of Messiness Comes the Holiness

December 31, 2017

On this day we celebrate the holiness of families.  We celebrate the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on their journey of faith.  Beyond the picture of images and portraits of the family, beyond the beautiful statues sculptured out of rock in various places around the world, we are invited to the sacred and holiness of how they followed the will of God.  We hear about the breakdown of the family in our society.  We hear of the violence of words, the slamming of doors, rough communication which has become how parents relate to the children and how children relate to their parents. These are difficult times. The brokenness of families, high divorce rates, estranged and absentee parenting all make it difficult to see holiness.  I think of parents burying children due to gun violence, drugs and suicide.  Where is the holiness?   One might also ask, where is the love?

On a Saturday night in Philadelphia, our Holy Father Pope Francis spoke of the family.  He said “Families have a citizenship which is divine. The identity card that they have has been given to them by God.”  He went on to say “In family, indeed, there are many difficulties.  But those difficulties are overcome with love.”

Love overcame the difficulties of the Holy Family.  Mary wondered what the message from the angel was about.  Without fully understanding, love prevailed.  Joseph found himself in a surprising situation and took Mary as his wife who was with child, but he trusted in love. God prevailed at the temple when Mary and Joseph heard a prophet and a prophetess say incredible things about their child and they were amazed at what was said.  Love triumphs, love is recognized and love overwhelms.

My family was not perfect.  Fights erupted in our house and consequences sometimes included my mom’s wooden spoon, but love was the conversation around the table.  Sunday Supper was mandatory.  It was a special meal prepared with love each week. It was preceded by a memory created earlier in the morning when together we went to church and afterwards enjoyed a family activity before we ate.  Trust me it was hard for three competitive boys to refrain from annoying my sister, the only girl.  It was not easy to corral our high energy nor my sister’s drama, but love prevailed.  What makes a family holy?  Respect, listening that leads to understanding, discipline and consequences that are carried out all contribute. Above all, love is what makes a family holy.

Growing up, my paternal grandmother used to visit us about once a week.  When she stopped by, she always brought with her my dad’s favorite candy bar, a Hershey’s chocolate bar with the brown wrapper.  She would place it on the highest cabinet shelf in the kitchen so none of us kids could reach it.  My dad would come home from work, kiss my mom and ask if his mom left him a surprise.  He would light up when my mom said “yes”.  My grandmother never forgot her son’s favorite candy bar.  It was a simple expression of love.

To find sacredness and holiness in family, we must go back and cherish the love.

Reverend John J. Ouper