Some thoughts on Holy Family Sunday 2017

These are some random thoughts on what the Gospel Story for the Feast of the Hoy Family says to me as I have been pondering it in the setting of all that is going on these days. The operative words are IMHO (in my {not so very}humble opinion).

As with so many of the Stories in the Gospels, we would like to see the Holy Family Story in nice pastel colors. But when we look at the Stories through the lens of what is going on today, there is not much “niceness” in any of them. They are calls to reflect and reframe, to question, to act. When we let them, and do not limit them to what we have always heard them to say, the Gospel Stories offer new insight into the way we live our own lives today.

As with all of us, what Jesus learned at home while he was growing up formed the values for how he lived as an adult. As we spend time with him in the Gospel Stories we gain insight to what he learned from Mary and Joseph.

From the very beginning of Jesus’ life among us, the Holy Family was at odds with the religious authorities and practices of the time. He was born to an unwed mother and father in circumstances that made his parents socially unacceptable even as they were living their “yes” to God.

He learned that God is not remote and judgmental, or someone we have to be afraid of, but is very much involved in all life, someone with and in whom we live. Jesus did not say much about doing things to keep God happy in this life so we can get to heaven in the next life. For Jesus this life, and the people we meet in it, is important in and of itself.

God is always and still revealing God’s Self through creation and life in all its forms, and the more we learn about creation and life, the more we learn about God being God. When we set up limits on how we will accept God, we may find it safe and easy to feel we know all there is to know and have God all figured out, but we keep ourselves from growing in the Spirit of God.

The notion of gender identity is relatively new in our time on the planet, and it is generating energetic, and not always respectful, actions on all sides. At the very least this requires honest and open dialogue, questioning, and a willingness to be led by the Spirit without giving the Spirit marching orders on where we will allow ourselves to be led. The fact that we are not comfortable with some ideas does not mean that God has finished revealing God’s Self to us. Jesus reached out to everyone in love and caring, and if we are serious about learning from him, we have to do the same.

The very notion of what a family is, and how a family is made up, is being questioned today, as is so much about how we see ourselves. Ideas are surfacing that are seen by many to be a serious threat to so much of what we have held dear for many generations. When we look around us at what many refer to as “non-traditional families” we also see love, goodness, commitment, dedication, caring. We may have to rely on our belief that each of us is created in God’s image and likeness, and ask for the wisdom and courage to be open to what the Spirit is doing among us, and where the Spirit is leading us. In our tradition we do not try to understand in order to believe, we believe in order to understand.

People are important, and are the focus of the Gospels. Each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us is important, necessary, and none of us is an accident. Either this is real and means something, or it doesn’t. We don’t get to say who reflects God and who doesn’t. Following Jesus is not meant to be safe and comfortable, but is a call to imitate Jesus, following his values in how we choose and how we act.

From time to time God raises up people who, in their response to God’s Spirit, think, say, or do things that lead them to run afoul of religious authorities and their systems and teachings, and so get into trouble. Jesus lived this way, as have so many of his followers throughout history.

The Will of God cannot be limited to rules and regulations handed down by religious authorities over the years that may have worked once, but no longer reflect life as we know it today. Many of them seem established primarily to maintain good order in religious institutions. If life as we know and live it is not what someone or a religious system says it should be, we may have to reflect prayerfully and humbly on whether what we hear from them might not be totally accurate. Jesus promised to send the Spirit who will teach us to observe everything that he commanded us. When we claim already to have all the answers, we have neither room nor need for the Spirit. There are times when we find we do not have the answers to the questions, and we may have to question the answers — always doing our best to be open to the Spirit who leads us to greater understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

With all that is going on these days in our own country and throughout the world as so many families are being torn apart, we have to look at the Gospel and ask what Jesus is calling us to do.

In line with a lesson I learned from a very wise commander in Viet Nam after a choice I made to not get involved with a request from some soldiers. My choice occasioned a tragedy. When I told the COL that I could have prevented the tragedy because the matter was not my concern, he said, “Chaplain, anything that affects your people in any way is your concern, and don’t you ever forget that”. Jesus shows us the same thing — anything that affects folks in any way is our concern now just as it was for him.

When people are hurting, the Gospel demands that we follow Jesus’ example and act to heal their pain. Families are hurting locally and throughout the world. We have to get involved, and what we are called to do is something we learn we learn from prayer of openness and trust.

Just sayin . . .

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