Choosing freely is part of the American way of life. We choose our friends, we choose our colleges, and we choose what we will do with our life. We may somehow come mistakenly to view ourselves as supreme rulers in the supermarket of free choice
We can easily assume that freedom of choice applies to all areas of life. But, reality sets in. We have physical limitations: I will never be the starting quarterback for the eagles. More sadly, I will not be chosen to replace a “hunk” on TV.
Our relational world has limits too. Freedom of choice does not extend to our family. We do not choose our parents. Children do not come with toe-tag guarantees that parents can read, then accept or reject. Brothers and sisters do not choose each another.
What we learn from the reality of our family is that the family is the place where we learn how to be - at times - “stuck with” others. We adjust to one another as circumstances and our ages change. We are determined to stick together and separate only if our relationship is no longer life giving, but becomes death dealing. Blessed, blessed are those who have the courage to move from a death-dealing relationship and move on.
Learning how to be “stuck with” the people whom we have not chosen is a very important lesson to learn in a society that assumes that real freedom is found only when we have choices available to us.
There is an odd case of “stuck-with-ness” in the holy family whom we celebrate today. What binds this family together is not the bonds of freedom of choice, romance, or sexuality. What binds this family is the bond of divine mission “the will of God.”
I used to have trouble preaching about the holy family as a model family because they are so radically different from us:
Joseph - guided by God in dreams when tough calls came.
Jesus - 100% God/100% man: unique - not your usual only child.
How can any family hope to imitate a family like that?
I’m afraid I missed the point - which is easy to do when I am immersed in “the American way.”
From another standpoint, the holy family is viewed differently:
Mary - “Let it be done to me according to your will.”
She did not know the consequences of that choice.
After raising Jesus, she would hear: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Joseph - After the incredible story from Mary and a dream:
“Joseph took Mary as his wife . . .” The will of God!
Jesus - “I have come to do the will of the one who sent me.”
“Father, not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus, Mary and joseph each had the overarching bond to the will of our father. That, we can emulate.
The holy family did not have it easy. After Jesus’ birth, they had to leave the country, relocate. Joseph had to find work in their “forced relocation” in Egypt while fleeing for Jesus’ life. They experienced family sickness; they experienced the death of parents / grandparents the same as all families. Joseph banged his thumb with his hammer. Mary got distracted and incinerated dinner. We can identify with those experiences of humanity.
Out of this blessed-as-no-other, yet human family, God fashioned a family -community united in their desire to follow the Father’s will.
Working at having a good family requires of us: mutual respect, affirming one another, sharing . . . “stuff” and the bathroom, patience with one another, and, most importantly, forgiving.
Healthy family living teaches us that free choice is not always possible. Family living is a great training ground for those places we have to be with others: in the work place and even in the Church-place.
Both our natural family and our church family have something in common: both families are like spokes of a wheel that center on the hub who is the Lord. Like a wheel, the closer we get to the center, the closer we get to one another.