Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 'Abnormal' Norm

Holy Family Year A

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas, today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are reminded that Christmas and the family are intimately linked. Christ came as a member of a human family to enable us to be part of God’s family.

Many years ago, a family with 2 parents and several children and certain members of the extended family (e.g. grandparents, cousins, unmarried uncles or aunties) would be considered a “normal” family. Any variations from that would be seen as “abnormal.” Today, things have changed enormously. Families are getting smaller and smaller. Today, we seldom see several families related to one another living under the same roof. The number of single parents are increasing – women separated or divorced from husbands living with their children. Because of this drastic change in the makeup of the family, we can no longer hold on to the traditional definition of the family which is ‘normal.’

The more we examine the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the more we begin to understand how this family is so unlike the ‘normal’ families which we have come to accept as the traditional model of the family. Joseph was married to Mary but was not the real father of Jesus. Mary and Joseph were married but were actually living as brother and sister. Mary seemed to have been widowed at a young age as there no longer any mention of Joseph after the first few chapters of the gospel. In fact, Mary may have been a single mother who had to single-handedly raise Jesus all on her own. Jesus was an only child but would have grown up in the company of many cousins. The holy family was certainly very poor – Jesus would have been deprived of many of things that other children of his age would have enjoyed.

When we recognize how “abnormal” the Holy Family is, then we will begin to see how the Holy Family becomes a model not only for the ‘normal’ and traditional families – the so-called ‘good families – but also a model for the ‘abnormal families’ – the broken families, the single-parent families, the families that are struggling to keep their relationship together. Jesus truly understands what you are all going through and the struggles that you are experiencing. There is no school for mothers and fathers where they learn the art of parenting. Our children are also not our private possessions and when they are old enough they will decide how to live their own lives. Broken relationships, betrayals, hurts are facts of life. But the holy family also gives us a picture of hope. If God is at the center of family life then no matter how big the problem may be, no matter how serious the hurts may have become, no matter how wide the chasm that has grown between individuals, God has overcome all because he has been through it all in the person of Jesus.

Today is not a day for preaching about family – about what you should do or not do. Rather, today is a day for giving thanks to God for families. In the face of increasing break down in marriages, broken families, estranged couples, children leaving their elderly parents in homes, the Christian family – the human family – is truly a miracle. We must never forget that the family is a precious gift of a loving and caring Creator. It must never be taken for granted. Each member of the family is precious and can never be taken for granted. Let us in today’s mass, give thanks to God for the gift of families in all its forms.

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