HOLY FAMILY 2012 C
On this Feast of the Holy Family we are drawn to conclude that what applies to Jesus also applies to us: That the family is the favored place to grow into maturity, the favored place to acquire wisdom and graciousness, the favored place to prepare for our vocation in life.
We have just celebrated that God has come among us in the flesh. As human beings we are creatures of the senses. We need something we can grasp tangibly, physically. God continues to be present in the seven sacraments but family life is, or at least it can also be, a sacrament. Like the Eucharist, or any other sacrament, it too can give concrete flesh to God. Family life is for many of us, the most important sacrament of all because it is the one that in fact touches our lives and transforms us the most deeply.
But that is not to say that it will not be fraught with pettiness, frustration, anger, jealousies, selfish concern, pathology, and obviously sin. It is not easy to live in a family but it is primarily in the family that we grow as fully human beings.
All families have their positive and negative aspects. The fact is that the very negatives become the opportunities of grace leading the rest of the family to God. The compassion that we have for the weakest member of the family, whether that be physically weak, psychologically weak, or morally weak, becomes our means to grow in union with God. The efforts that we make to accept each other’s shortcomings are themselves acts of virtue.
In some families there are great tensions, which can be very destructive; sometimes there are abusive parents or siblings. And there are certainly sometimes circumstances in which it is surely better for parents to separate for the good of the family. We do not always consider that each particular family provides a healthy environment, for regrettably it is sometimes in the family that we learn the worst lessons of all. Our families are never the holy family!
Yet despite these qualifications we appreciate that the family is the most important social unit within society. Living in a family requires a high degree of self-sacrifice, especially from the parents but we know that it is precisely this self-giving love that makes us fully human.
Living for others is what being a Christian is all about, it is the way that Jesus showed us in the manner of his life but most especially in the manner of his death.
The family is relationships bonding individuals in commitment to share in the support and growth of one another. The family is a unit based on love and mutual respect. It takes different shapes today more than ever. Traditional marriage with natural or adopted children, Blended Families, Single parent families, Gay couples. We as Christians must respect the rights of all. Prejudice of any kind has no place whether it be on grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation.
A few of us got into a discussion the other night about marriage, relationships, family planning, gay relationships, adoption etc. Can’t quite sum all that up in ten minutes unfortunately and not even in a few hours. These are deep questions of life that need open sharing, honest examination and respectful listening. I hope that all of us who shared have been helped to experience the mystery more completely. I always say that the only real question to answer is, “Is this the loving thing to do?” St. John in our second reading today says, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God.” In regard to the question of sexual orientation, hard clear black and white print in a Catechism doesn’t always bring peace to a soul troubled by these deep questions of life. Even the Catechism itself expresses the reality in a way that would not have been found in previous editions yet clings to a hard clear answer in naming sin. We read these statements in the catechism:
- “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition..” 2358
- “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law.” 2357
Clearly the text recognizes what we are all coming to realize: that although the scripture says “Male and female , he created them”, there are more than a few who not only have homosexual tendencies but it is a condition that is not chosen.
Obviously a homosexual must express and communicate love, as a husband and wife must communicate love and as a celibate priest must communicate love, for love defines each of us in the image of God.
- I, as a celibate heterosexual male, must communicate love in all my relationships as both a sexual being and as a celibate . My communication, verbal and physical, must be honest and in keeping with who I am in my commitments. This is also true of a single person, heterosexual or homosexual.
- A husband must communicate love in all his relationships, not just with his wife, always as a male sexual being who is married. His communication, verbal and physical, must be honest and in keeping with whom he is as a committed married man.
- If a homosexual person does not choose their condition as the Catechism states, that person must in order to become the loving person that God created her or him to be, also communicate love verbally and non-verbally as every other human sexual being, honestly and in keeping with his/her commitments.
What I think is important in this discussion is to be led by God. Communication is always verbal and non-verbal. It is always the expression of one who is a sexual being. We can’t get away from that. But all of us can either speak the truth in our communication or speak lies; we can be honest or dishonest. When I speak in truth my love, I know that necessarily puts the other first and I am concerned about honoring and respecting the other. My temptation to put my inclination to seek pleasure is easily sacrificed.
Some may want to have an opportunity to discuss this important topic together. Again I say discuss, share and learn from one another and together be led by God’s Spirit. Jesus from an early age sought the truth even as he discussed with teachers in the temple. Can we say with Mary and Joseph that we have been “looking for you anxiously”? Are we willing to ponder with Mary about the many things that we don’t understand?