27 December 2020
Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 | Ps 128 | Col 3:12-17 | Lk 2:22-40
Today’s feasts is one of those that originated from the ground up, and it was a popular devotion long before it was a part of the official church calendar.
It wasn’t until 1921, that Pope Benedict XV, alarmed by the increasing threat to the family unit, declared this feast a church-wide observance.
Even in the ‘20s there was a growing concern about the breakdown of the family, as industrialization gradually replaced the life of the family farm and Mom-and-Pop stores.
Big families were less practical and younger members moved away from their childhood homes, leaving their elders behind.
Let’s fast-forward a century: now, all too many children are necessarily placed in the care of strangers while both parents work and distant grandparents grow old with empty arms and laps.
Families are struggling with re-definition (which isn’t all bad, but can be all the more challenging) and even reasons to exist.
A 30-something friend of mine said he was trying to think of good reasons to have kids. He thought he wanted to be a dad, but it’s not like he needed kids to help work the farm. “Kids are expensive,” he’d say. “And they take so much time.”
He then asked if I knew of any logical rationale to support the idea of having kids?
I knew quoting church teaching on the sacrament of marriage wasn’t going to satisfy this guy, so I was kind of forced to ponder the wisdom behind the teaching.
Here’s what I ended up telling him: It is the nature of all love to be generative — which means love is supposed to create, or build, or transform.
Most married couples express that love by creating new life with their spouse. Some couples choose to adopt or foster children who need a temporary home. Others direct their passion to projects, or a mission, or creating a hospitable home in which they open to others.
However it’s expressed, love cannot simply feed on itself. It must create. It must be shared. If we cannot understand that love is not so much a “feeling” but a “doing,” the family will be capsized by the first threatening storm that comes along.
And if any family was ever threatened, it was the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We know, they themselves became refugees, forced to flee a cruel government and certain death.
In a culture where the extended family was everything for them, these three people, united by God, their love, and their common purpose, struck out on their own into a land of strangers and strange ways.
Think of our world today and how many people are forced to become refugees and displaced persons within their own countries due to war, threats of violence, poverty, and natural disasters.
Perhaps all of us who have heard today’s Gospel should consider adopting the mission statement of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration, when they state: “We need to create a world where immigrants, refugees, migrants, and people on the move are treated with dignity, respect, a welcoming, and a belonging.”
This is a most worthy purpose in life, and one homily cannot begin to unpack the necessary reform regarding immigration, but each one of us can start by making our homes a haven of hospitality; our parishes, workplaces, and schools places where discrimination is non-existent; and our pew (or chair in a banquet center) a seat where the stranger always feels welcome.
Not only is it what Jesus would do, but Jesus, and his mother, and Joseph experienced life on the receiving-end of another nation’s, another culture’s, hospitality.
May it be our prayer and our intention to always model and exercise the same.