Homily - Feast of the HOLY FAMILY Year B 2020 - Fr Francis Afu

27 December 2020 

Homily for the Solemnity of the Holy Family, Year B 2020

Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 40 segundos

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Life can be a hail of traffic jams. We often get stuck in it. We cannot go forward nor can we reverse. Perhaps, there is an accident in front; maybe the traffic light is red; oh! It is that rush hour, that peak time when almost everybody is running, chasing their own goals, and here we are jammed in the traffic. We cannot pursue our own dreams. We cannot make a U-turn either. There are other cars caught up in traffic too. What is this traffic for you? Can you name it? Do you think it is your biological family? Is it your family of choice – marriage, friends, and work?

There is no doubt, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was in a traffic jam. They seemed stuck in the traffic of being outsiders. They came from a little town of Nazareth, a town that was considered as a “no-town”. No Jewish historian bothered to mentioned it. And Mary, she was just an ordinary Jewish woman. Joseph was obviously known by his trade. But the man, Joseph was ignored. One can only imagine how they had to live on the margin, in what Pope Francis calls the existential periphery; and those living there are treated as less human than others.

How about the traffic of being a threat to the powers that be? They could not live in their own land because Herod saw Jesus as a threat to his throne. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had to flee Nazareth. They were in a jam in Egypt, and a family that was once free citizens became a stranger in a foreign land, living in fear of the unknown. They had to learn how to wait. They had to be patient, to develop the right attitude that is needed to live in a foreign land. They had to take in the fumes from the jam, bear the heat and the anger and frustration of other commuters.

But we refer to them as the Holy Family. Are we disappointed that there seems to be no perfection in their story, perhaps not perfection as we would imagine? Is holiness about perfection? From the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the answer is holiness is about perfecting rather than perfection. It is a virtue. Holiness is about God living in us, and we habitually responding to Him with actions that make the good of God, of others and of self, possible. The Gospel reading today relates this image of holiness vividly. The Holy Family is in a jam, and they are holy.

In other words, it is not the jam that defines them. They are holy because they consciously decentralised themselves of themselves and placed the Father in the centre of their life. There is no gainsaying that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in the words of Leo Scheffczyk, stood under God’s call, primordially oriented towards listening to the Father and doing His will. Jesus is God, and as Son of God, He listened to the Father. He placed the Father in the centre of His life. He emptied Himself and chose to do not His will, but the Father’s and so did Mary and Joseph.

Thus in their traffic jam, they observed as we heard in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 2:22-40 ‘what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord.’ They did not turn their backs on the Father and blame Him for everything that was wrong with them in the traffic of life. Rather, they did what Saint Francis of Assisi later recommended, ‘start by doing what is necessary, and then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’ In their case, the necessary thing was to observe the Lord’s Law.

What is the necessary thing for you to do in your own traffic jams? Perhaps, as a family stuck in a peculiar kind of traffic: sickness, unemployment, children not going to Church and who prefer to be non-religious, marital break-ups etc. The necessary thing to do is to acknowledge we cannot help ourselves. It is to look outside ourselves, to turn to God and move towards Him. It is to bring our real selves, with all the frustrations of being in the jam to the real God who understands what it feels like to be stuck and who is with us, seeing to our future and freedom.

And the possible thing we can do is to love. And Gemma did just that. She found herself in the traffic of an abusive relationship. Obviously, there was no way out for her, as her husband was very controlling and domineering. Many thoughts ran through her mind, and 99% of them would not have made her family holy. However, she chose to do the necessary thing – to pray. And the possible thing she did was to love her husband by reporting his behaviour. While it was tough love, it was the love that brought about repentance and freedom from the jam of abuse.


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