In one of his first writings as our Holy Father, Pope Francis wrote about marriage and family. He called it The Joy of Love. He was responding to the voices that say family life and marriage are in trouble. In his mind, marriage and family were opportunities not problems.
But before I get ahead of myself, when we talk about family and family life today, we have to acknowledge that family relationships are often complex, complicated and ever-changing. Some families are extended, interracial, multicultural and multilingual. Some families are native to a country and others are immigrants or naturalized citizens. Whatever the case may be, families today are diverse.
There are some specific teachings in the Scriptures that are sound teachings for building a solid foundation for our Catholic Christian families.
Why are Jesus, Mary and Joseph called The Holy Family? The family was not holy because of the cultural values they appropriated from their religious and family traditions. They were a holy family because Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up in an environment that was holy. Everything about their life together provided their son Jesus with an atmosphere that nurtured him to grow and become who he would ultimately become as an adult, Jesus Christ. Every one of our families is called to do the same. In fact, at the baptism of every child parents are reminded that they are the first educators in the faith of their child.
Countless books are written about how to raise children to be responsible and well behaved, loving and forgiving. Parents need look no further than what St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians. He called us holy and that is what we are having been made in the image and likeness of Jesus. But then he goes on to tell us how our holiness can expand by allowing heartfelt compassion to take root in us along with patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. And over all these put on love.
In Sunday’s reading from the Book of Sirach, Sirach describes some responsibilities that children ought to have toward their parents. Sirach says fathers but I will also add mothers.
Sirach told sons to take care of their fathers when they are old. Even if their minds fail, be considerate of them. Kindness shown to a father or mother will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sin.
To the mother I met on the elevator at the nursing home last week who looked exhausted, and when asked who she was visiting said it was her mother who has dementia. She along with her sister have been coming every evening for the last four years to feed their mother who spends eight hours a day sitting in a chair. This will not be forgotten.
For young and adult children who have suffered abuse or traumas at the hands of their parents, the reading from the Book of Sirach could be hard to hear, and lingering pain and resentment understandable. In his letter about marriage and family, Pope Francis said even imperfect families are also made in the image and likeness of God. They need help with discovering love, patience, fidelity and generosity.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was a human family with a mother, a father and a child, and they faced many challenges.
Families today continue to be God’s masterpiece and holy ground, a light set on a lamp stand for all to see. What a joy to behold when that light is visible and its rays project love, patience, fidelity and generosity.
May God bless you and your own holy family today and throughout the New Year!
About Father Leo Polselli, C.S.C.
Father Leo Polselli, C.S.C. is Chaplain at the Father Peyton Center in Easton, MA. Before coming to Holy Cross Family Ministries he served as a teacher and a parish priest. He also served for six years as a General Assistant of the Congregation in Rome, Italy. Originally from Fall River, MA, Father Leo grew up with eight siblings. Gifted with several languages, he is able to serve the Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Portuguese, Spanish and Haitian communities. When he's not greeting everyone who comes to the Father Peyton Center, you can find him regularly reading newspapers!