Holy Family 8.1.17 School of Love
God tells us to love one another, and to love our neighbour. Our neighbour is anyone with whom we come in contact, whether regularly or once only.
He knew we would find that command difficult so He gave us the family as a kind of training ground for growth in charity!
We can practise on those we see every day; learn to love them despite their faults; and try to make ourselves more agreeable to them despite our faults.
It is not so easy to love others as it sounds. Other things we try to be good at require practice. Cricketers practise in the nets and work on their technique. Musicians practise all the time. Every profession requires study and application.
Loving our neighbour requires practice too. We learn from where we went wrong… I shouldn’t have said that… I should have been more considerate… I should not have ignored that person etc etc.
These things are every day challenges and we all face them whether we live in a family or not, but the family setting is more intense because the members are thrust together.
If we are learning from all this - both the successes and the failures - we are on the way to becoming better Christians, growing in holiness.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. It could seem to us that their holiness is way out of our reach.
Two members of the family never committed a single sin, and it is unlikely the third member committed many.
There never would have been an argument in that family. Is that a realistic model?
Well, to compare again with other things we do, we can gain crumbs from the table of the masters.
We will never play tennis like Federer or sing like Pavarotti, but we can learn at least some tips from them, and improve our performance.
This also works for the Holy Family. If every husband spoke to his wife like he was Joseph and she was Mary, how many arguments would that cut down? He will not be as good as Joseph but he will be better than he was.
And the same can be said for every other relationship: parent-child, child-parent, brother-sister, in laws as well.
We are in the business of improving, growing in holiness. We learn as we go.
Children are raised in families (ideally, according to God’s plan) so that they can mature spiritually as they mature physically and mentally.
They learn to give way to others (siblings especially); to share their possessions, to forgive injuries. They learn that the whole universe does not revolve around them; that they are part of a much larger family of people, God’s people in fact.
They also learn to obey lawful authority, beginning with their parents.
Family life - when it works - is the best formation, and this is why God established it.
All things should be done in love and in proper order, as the epistles of the New Testament will constantly teach.
Again, ideals are not usually reached, but we can gain crumbs from the table. We learn to make the best of whatever we have.
Many people are refined by the fire of unhappy family life and still turn out alright.
Many will repent afterwards for the damage they did in earlier life.
Lost ground can be made up.
If all else fails we must learn, as individuals, to love even if not loved in return. We have to pray for the conversion and salvation of every person, however unlikely we might feel it to be.
And, always looking to ourselves, removing the plank from our own eye first. Always self-reflection is required.
The family teaches us when it works, and when it does not. We can see what should have happened even if it did not. We will get it more right each time - with the grace of God and the prayer of Mary and Joseph.