Who is My Family?
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." Matthew 2:13-15
For some of us the word family brings to mind happiness, support, love, connection, and a community. For others, it can mean pain, rejection, and despair. Yet, we are often obsessed with that word, family, this unit, this group of people. And so, what is family?
The word family has a powerful meaning in our faith tradition. It reminds us who and what we are not. Or that we might not be as safe and welcome as we thought we were. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family in the midst of Christmas season. Families are meant to be places of Refuge, of goodness, a place of love, and happiness. But family life can also be challenging. Family is an invitation from God that can bring us to many places that we would rather not go.
In Matthew's gospel, we hear Joseph has a dream. And in that dream, he hears what he must do to take care of his family. He is asked to flee to a distant country. For a moment can you imagine acting on that dream, if God had appeared to you? Picking up and leaving with your family to a distant country? Like any good father, though, Joseph wanted to provide safety and security for Mary and Jesus. He did what he had to do in order to provide for the safety of his family. But what if the dream asks us not to go into the world? What if the dream asks us to go more deeply within ourselves, to accept God's invitation to find out where God lives within each and every one of us? Hold on to that thought for just a moment.
I want to travel a little more deeply into the letter of Paul to the Colossians there was a piece of that reading that was not read and it came just before the passage that was read for us today I would ask you to consider these words:
“you must put aside, now, all anger, quick temper, malice, insults, foul language. Stop lying to one another. What you have done is put aside the old self with its past deeds, and have put on a new self which grows in knowledge as he is formed in the image of our Creator. There is no Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, foreigner, slave, or free. Rather Christ is in everything and in all of us.”
Did you hear those last few lines: Christ is everything and all of you. With Christ, everything changes. We are called to live mutually as a family. The old model no longer functions. God sends us dreams that challenge us to surrender. We are to surrender to God who asks us to go into the new and the unknown places that may be difficult. Kind of like family life. This is the dream that asked us to drop everything and go to a place of love.
What kind of family does God ask us to dream into reality today? Let us look at our own families. Every family is burdened with some kind of division. What can we do to heal those wounds? Do we go inward and allow God to lead us to new places? Can we surrender to one another in the love of Christ? Can we dream and find the courage to Journey with him and our families? What about our faith community that we belong to? Every worshiping Community has some divisions. Whether it is over the music, the pastor, Deacon, or some gossip that is rampant in the parish. Divisions exist. In Catholic parishes around the world, there is the ever-popular pre and post Vatican II split. If we are the mystical Body of Christ, are we willing to be that body? Are we called to journey to places that God invites us to become more of his family? What about our world? Big or small government? Open or closed borders? Love the stranger or fear them? War. Peace. Weapons. Hunger. Climate change. Justice. What if God's dreams say that we need to reposition our hearts? Can we see all as one in Christ? Can we call the Outsider our Christian family?
If God created everyone, we are all family. If we begin with a dream to take the journey, the journey inward, we begin with ourselves and then with our families and then with our world and our Parish communities. God molds each of us into a family. We say yes to that family God is with us. May we find the courage in Christ to hear our God. Maybe you listen to the ceiling to where we are called to go and be forever changed by love. The journey inward is a risk that we take. What will you dream? Tonight? And what will you do when you awaken tomorrow morning?