What Is Family?

holy_family3Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. It is both right and good that we do this, for we owe honor to Mary and Joseph for their care and raising of Jesus during his early years.

But, as we do, it is also right that we look at our own families to  discern how we do or do not exhibit our love for God through those relationships.

Perhaps today as in no other times, families are under assault, but not in the way our brothers and sisters on the far Right might explain. They of course would argue that our “worldliness” is at fault for the difficulties endured by family today. They would look to marriage equality, to contraception, to movies, to abortion, and a host of “secular”-driven desires as the reason that families are in crisis.

But I suggest that most of our difficulties stem from the stresses of modern life, and that quite frankly, if families seemed more stable in the past, it was largely due to circumstances rather than love. In times past, families stayed together often because they had no other choice. Women in particular had very limited options should they attempt to leave an abusive relationship. And children were necessities often times in order to secure enough money to pay the bills or to care for the land.

So I see much of what is considered to be “traditional” family life as more the result of need rather than desire.

That being said, we cannot dispute the fact that the daily pressures of life make it difficult for people to deal with the usual ebb and flow of relationships. A difficult situation in the home often proves to be the last straw that can be endured. Whether this is right or not is not the point, it is the truth.

Oddly, those that bemoan the secularism-driven destruction of the so-called nuclear  family, are statistically speaking those most often living in a broken family. The rate of divorce in the bible-belt is higher than in any other group.

But what has this to do with our reading today about Jesus and his becoming “lost” to his parents?

As you recall, the family journeyed to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. As the caravan they were in was returning home, Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was nowhere to be found. They returned to Jerusalem, and after three days, they found him in the Temple, conversing with the rabbis there about scripture.

Mary asks Jesus why he would do such a thing.

Surprised at her lack of understanding he asks, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

With this, we obtain a new understanding of family.

Jesus, much as he obeyed and was a good son, knew that his first allegiance was to God. He exhibits surprise that anyone would not realize this. This is his true family, and of course it is our true family.

God and those who espouse God are family in the real sense. Their love binds them more completely than any blood ever could.

And we know that Jesus honors this “family” well beyond biology. Remember when he tells us that his followers are his sister and brother, when he asks us, “who is my mother?” Remember his welcoming to the disabled, the public sinners, and all who were marginalized in his society. Jesus invited them to share in his life and he loved them, and invited them to love each other. He indicated that the hallmark of his followers was their capacity and exhibition of love to all, but especially to each other. It was the hallmark of the earliest Christian groups as they met in each others homes and celebrated the life and teachings of the Master.

Jesus, as a child points us to what is truly important about family. It is about God-centered love. And we should realize that God celebrates our families in whatever fashion we have come to find and  make them. They may not be “conventional” as history shows, but they are REAL and I suspect God finds them all the more worthy and blessed for that reason.

Finally, we are coming to that point when the earth by technological means, is smaller than ever. We truly are beginning to realize that we are all invested in each other, all necessary to the whole, and together we form the incredible mosaic of humanity that reflects the glory of our Creator. We are truly becoming a human family, one that is compassionate, empathetic and willing to reach out to each other, regardless of our superficial differences, in love and care.

God created all that is, and when it was finished, he SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD.

We are God’s family, and God is the center of ours. That is what family is.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 18:24:46

    Sherry, I so love your comments here. They remind me of something I heard recently: the Holy Family is God’s perfect model of a family of choice. All three members unite by choice–the opportunity to bring about something new and lasting in the world is offered to all three, and each one, independent of the others, says, “Yes!” The same privilege is offered to each of us, as God’s Spirit invites us to join the Family. All that stands between us and this great gift is our decision to say, “Yes!”

    Happy New Year to you and Parker. I trust 2013 will be a year of great adventure and wonderful surprises!

    Blessings, dear friend,


    • Sherry
      Dec 31, 2012 @ 11:52:03

      Oh Tim, I feel so good about what you say. Choosing family based on mutual love and respect and the desire to uphold each other in our growth as humans is what family is truly about. I so treasure your friendship and Parker and I trust that all our friends are upheld in our love and prayers for a wonderful new year. Bless you and Walt in an exciting year to come. Sherry


  2. peacefulpartings
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 19:03:39

    I was thinking of the same topic when writing today! Much light and love to your family today and into the new year!


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