26 December 2010

Holy Family

It would be easy to sentimentalize or to politicize about the feast of the Holy Family; but one thing we know is that God is not much into sentimentality or politics. Don't get me wrong, genuine sentiment can contribute passion for seeking the true and good; and politics is a way of putting the common good into practice. Nothing wrong there.

I want to propose that there is something more fundamental about the feast of the Holy Family: a mystery. As we contemplate the Holy Family we see God making us responsible for Him. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph were responsible for Jesus. What effect did this responsibility have on them? It made them love Him more!

On Christmas Eve, I was driving into Nashville from Ashland City where I had been with my father, who had just undergone eye surgery. I needed to get back to the city to prepare for the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral, where I was to be Master of Ceremonies for the Bishop's Mass. Those were the things on my mind. I received a phone call on the way ("in via" -- a favorite expression of mine right now) from a young man and new father. I had prepared him and his wife for marriage, celebrated their nuptial Mass, and even visited the hospital recently when their first child was born. He was asking me about their need to get to Mass for Christmas. At first, I took this call to be about the new (for him) but ordinary circumstance of how to get to Mass with a newborn. As the conversation went on, I realized that his situation was not ordinary. Both his wife and baby daughter were somewhat sickly, and I realized (too slowly) that he was asking for my help. So I told him that I would come by to bring them Holy Communion, since his wife and daughter did not need to get out and he needed to be with them. I realized that he was taking responsibility for them, and it was making him a better man and me a better priest! While at their home, I asked how the mother and child were doing. Finally I asked how he was doing. He said that he was doing better than ever, although with less sleep! He said, holding his tiny baby daughter in his arms, that he did not know that he could have loved his wife more than he had before; but he did. His baby daughter had changed everything about his life. This responsibility had changed him into a man who loved better and more.

This is what God does for us when he comes to us as a baby. We are responsible for Him. He comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament. We are responsible for Him. He comes to us in our vocations. We are responsible for Him. He comes to us in the poor, the sick, and all those in need. We are responsible for Him. This responsibility makes us love Him more. It makes us love more. Sometimes I hear people say that God is able to take care of Himself. That is not true. And that is a mystery!


OP Wannabe said...

Father--bravo. So profound. I love this.

Diezba said...

So I know I shouldn't say this when you begin your post with a riff on sentimentality, but heck: I teared up after reading this. It's all the more profound for me, since I'm fairly confident I know the family in question.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: assist us!