Holy Family 7.1.18 Mercy
If we had an invitation to visit the home of the Holy Family how would we feel?
Would we be overawed at the prospect of being in such exalted company… Lord, I am not worthy that I should enter under Your roof!
Yet, we can visualise what they would do if we knocked on the door… they would welcome us and treat us like royalty.
In ordinary life we would not walk up to an important place, like Buckingham Palace or the White House, and expect to be let in, without a lot of security and fuss etc.
But here at Nazareth, the most exalted place on earth, we would be welcomed.
This tells us something about the power of sin to put such fear into us, and the power of mercy that we could be set free from such fear.
We expect punishment, coldness, rejection, and we receive warmth, welcome, kindness.
It is the same experience as the Prodigal Son had when he took courage and approached his father’s house (Lk 15,11-32).
We are a little afraid of goodness because we feel our own lack of it. But goodness is of its nature welcoming and forgiving.
This is what God is like; this is what the Holy Family would have been like.
We do not use this information as an excuse to continue our sinful ways, but to make us determined to shake off all traces of sin, allowing the inspiration of holiness to move us to better things.
Do not be afraid, the words so often used in the Bible. Do not be afraid, because when God approaches it is always with the view of making it better for us, setting us free, enlightening us etc.
So we are not afraid to travel to the house in Nazareth, and let ourselves be moved by the encounter.
It should mean a change in the way we treat each other. If we are forgiven much we should be able to forgive others who have offended us less (Mt 18, 21-35).
It should mean that every sinner in the world can find hope of welcome if he will only turn his steps that way.
Even the complacent who think they have no sin will be moved by the encounter. Their smugness may give way to true contrition. Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man. (Lk 5, 8)
It should mean that families everywhere can live in peace, if each will draw from the example of the Holy Family.
It should mean that those who dispute the Church’s teachings about family matters will submit graciously to the certainty that here is real wisdom, unanswerable. The Church should change its teachings? No, I should change my behaviour!
The Church, in all its aspects, should be a place along the lines of the Holy Family’s home. We welcome sinners because of their value as persons. We seek, by our holiness, to offer a place of refuge to them, a way of life that will move them to change.
It is a big assignment, but it is part of our mission.
We know, to our grief, that we have failed many times. Sin puts us all under pressure; makes us irritable, short on patience.
So we renew our own experience of the Holy Family, drawing mercy from them, at the same time as inspiration to live better lives.
We rejoice to be in the presence of holiness, of the Holy Family, of God Himself: One day within Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Ps 83,10).
We can help each other to rise to better things. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, have mercy on us, and pray for us.