Holy Family Ties – The Feast of The Holy Family (December 30)
The popularity of genealogy and ever-new ways to search for family origins has brought to mind the importance of family. Ever since God told our first parents (as we read in Genesis 35:11) to “be fruitful and multiply,” the human race has done just that. And, we have kept track—whether in the memories of ancient peoples, in writing on ancient parchments, or on contemporary computer spreadsheets—of our ancestors, our relationships, and our descendants. For some reason, it is important to know from whom we came.
This can lead to a tribal mentality. But that seems to be the way human life is structured. We have a need to belong not only to the largest whole, the human race, but also to a smaller segment that we can claim as our own. “That’s my great-grandmother,” “That’s my third cousin,” and “That’s my tribe.”
Of course, this tribal belongingness can also lead to a certain amount of exclusivity, as in, “My family won the war, so now my family gets to rule forever.” This is just what has happened all through history—even in the history of Israel, despite the prophet Samuel’s warnings. The people wanted a king, like other nations, and they got Saul, followed by Saul’s son David, and then by David’s son Solomon. And eventually, from that very Davidic line, appeared our savior, Jesus Christ!
So when we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, let’s remember to celebrate, first of all, the human family as God’s family. God never meant for us to be exclusive tribes. Tribal belongingness may be necessary for our human growth. We all need to be accepted in our families. And we certainly should be grateful to our ancestors for getting us to where we are today. Each of us comes from “a holy family,” with good and faithful ancestors we may not have even heard of, but who are known to God. But belongingness (and love) should never stop in our tribe or in our family. In the early Church, the Jews who first followed Christ were asked to welcome the Gentiles. We, the Church today, are asked to welcome all of humanity as our brothers and sisters. God our Father is everybody’s Father! And in our own time, we are asked to welcome those who don’t feel like they belong, who don’t feel like they are wanted or needed. As Christians—as followers of our king, Jesus Christ—and as children of God, we are here to say: “You belong with us. We need you. You are family.”
The Feast of the Holy Family falls within the Christmas season, which lasts until the Baptism of the Lord (mid-January). Hopefully, some family vacation days can be arranged for the days after Christmas. Celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with some fun family activities. Here are some suggestions:
- While Christmas decorations and lights are still up in your neighborhood, take an evening tour and follow it up with hot chocolate and cookies!
- Bake some Christmas cookies together, and offer a box to an individual or family you know in your neighborhood or parish who may not have had the best Christmas. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying for them.
- Have you written your Christmas thank-you notes? Make a party of it, and write them together. Help one another say thank you to friends and relatives. You might want to expand your list to send a family thank-you note to someone who has been particularly good or helpful to your family in the past year.
- Take a walk outside together! A walk in the fresh air, especially in a park or nature preserve, is always a good way to de-stress. Depending on the weather, maybe sledding or building a snow sculpture can be put on the family agenda.
- Make plans together for the new year. Get out that new parish calendar or wall calendar. Write in family birthdays and anniversaries. Plan for day trips or weekend visits to places you would like to go as a family. Is this the year for that big vacation or road trip to visit far-flung family? Write down possible dates and start a “vacation piggy bank” for small purchases along the way.
- Take time to discuss and write down your family mission. Every family is different, and every family has a contribution to make to God’s Kingdom of love and peace. What is your family’s contribution? Settle on three things your family does to put action behind the prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How can you make life more “heavenly” for your family, your parish, your neighborhood, and the entire world? Here is an example of a three-part family mission statement:
- In our family, we respect one another enough to discuss things calmly without shouting.
- In our family, we go to Mass each week to thank God for all his gifts to us, and to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
- In our family, we participate in parish and neighborhood events to help make life better for others.
Post your family mission statement in a prominent place in your home. Title it “Family Mission for the Year 20__.”
Happy Feast of the Holy Family!
(The Scripture quotation in this work is taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, D.C. All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owners.)