The assignment was a 7 minute homily on a specific feast in the Advent/Christmas cycle. My assigned day is Holy Family Sunday (which is actually a Friday this year).
Be available to be someone’s chosen family.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTIMATE thing you can do with someone in public? Any guesses?
It’s eating together. Sharing food is the most intimate thing you can do.
We eat together with our families and our most intimate friends. Yes, we might also eat together at work – team building is important! Dates. Proposals. Business deals. We do these all over food (and drinks, of course).
We see this every day, downstairs, at the Lima Center where guests need not only food but also love, social interaction, and simple human decency. Come for our famous Chicken Adobo and showers, but stay for the feeling of being one of the family.
As a devotion, the Holy Family enters the Church recently: Showing up in France in the 18th Century. It doesn’t catch on for nearly 200 years, becoming a feast for the whole church only in 1921.
It’s one of those curious feasts that does not mark an event or date, but rather an idea. The devotion was intended to show families how to be.
Paul calls the steps here:
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bearing with and forgiving one another… in love… and the peace of Christ
This does describe Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but Paul is actually telling us how to live in our own families.
Who would not want to gather around a table with a family like this?
The Holy Family devotion arose at a time when the family as we knew it had been destroyed by the industrial revolution. Gone were the days when multiple generations lived and ate together, caring for each other. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would not have known themselves as a “nukular family” but as part of an extended tribe of support. They become a good aspirational image for how the family could be – despite the changes of the 18th and 19th centuries.
But what of now?
San Francisco is a city of broken families. Not only divorce – although certainly that. From the Gold Rush to the Tech Booms, people are called to the City by the siren song of the Petshop Boys.
Everyone goes west.
Not always happily: sexual choices or drug issues cause families kick out their children. Wives leave their husbands.
Families crash and break up on one rock or another and the flotsam and jetsom end up here, eating alone.
Walking away from the past, hopes are high.
Yet, the dark side is here, too: when things don’t work here, the westernmost city, where else is there to look for “compassion, kindness, and patience”?
San Francisco had at one time the highest suicide rate in the country (today it’s Las Vegas).
Sociologists see two types of families: “Birth Families” and “families of choice”. San Francisco author, Armistead Maupin, calls them “Biological Families” and “Logical Families”. He suggests folks come to this city – mostly alone – and weave new, Logical Families together to replace the Biological ones back east, in the past.
What shall we – the Church that dines weekly (or daily) with the Holy Family – do about the flotsam and jetsom? Not just at homeless ministries, but in our homes.
When Christ calls us to welcome the stranger do we imagine them at our family table?
My Catholic faith has been blessed and strengthened by two Brothers in the Knights of Columbus. Their families have welcomed me into their homes, especially at holidays and family events, helping me at difficult times, and making me feel included. I’m honored their children call me Uncle Huw!
Is there someone in the pews for you to invite home? Do you have room around your table for a new aunt or uncle from St Dominic’s?
Let me and my Catholic extended family invite you to see the Holy Family as a model for us to be someone’s family in this city of singles. Try weaving Maupin’s phrase, “Logical Family” with one of the Greek titles for Jesus, “The Logos” the word. That’s where “logical” comes from, anyway. Mary and Joseph are – literally – a family of Jesus’ sovereign choice, the Logos family.
In the Holy Family we have a beautiful family of choice to emulate.
Joseph embodies the virtues of strength, family support, and courage, Mary, full of grace, is courageous as well, and loving: a Jewish woman who keeps her home orderly so her husband can raise their son in the faith and traditions of Israel. Jesus is a stranger, not theirs and yet fully their own. And Jesus, one of us in all ways except sin, is almighty God living in humble obedience to his chosen parents.
When making me part of their Logical Families, my Brother Knights model the Holy Family for me – for all of us.
We can, through the Holy Family’s intercession, consecrate ourselves as new Logos families gathered around larger tables. Not only at Christmas but year-round. Our Holy Families of Choice can become the places described in the psalm:
Where we can eat the fruit of our handiwork and be blessed.
Extend an invite. Go blessed!
We can choose to build huge, intimate families of uncles and aunts for our children, including us all in the arms of faith and love around our dining tables and around this table where the God of all Love, of all community, of all family, gives himself to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Let us eat together with God, inviting all the world with us around this Eucharistic Table.
There’s plenty of room here.
Let us all be the Holy Family!
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