The Sunday after Christmas is the feast of the Holy Family. We look at Jesus and Mary and Joseph and see in them the perfect family – no drama, no dysfunction, no addictions, no mental or emotional illness. But each and every family, including yours and mine, is called to be a holy family. Yet how many of us grieve over a broken relationship: perhaps a son or a daughter, or a brother or a sister, or a parent or a spouse? How many of us have closed an emotional door of our heart to another person, or had another’s heart closed against us? How many of us suffer with a broken heart over a lost relationship: one in which we have been hurt or have inflicted hurt, one that may even have ended in tragedy?
One of my favorite Gospel stories is the one about the Prodigal Son. As a parent myself I can relate to that story and see it as very relevant to the feast of the Holy Family. In the story one of the two teenage sons cannot bear to spend another day with his family. He asks his father for his inheritance ahead of schedule, and goes off to squander every last penny on foolish and harmful things. He eventually hits rock bottom and comes humbly home to beg his dad for a job as a laborer in the family business. The most moving part of the story is how the dad waits anxiously by the window every day watching for his son to come home; and how he jumps up and down for joy when he sees his son approaching the house. He runs out to hug him and welcome him home, with no questions asked.
The message of the story is unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus calls us to never close the door of our heart to another person, even when another’s heart has been closed on us. Jesus calls us to never give up.
We are all called to be holy families despite the drama and dysfunction we sometimes find ourselves mired in; despite the mistakes we inevitably make; despite the hurts and scars we bear and sometimes inflict. We don’t have to be perfect. We just can never stop loving, never stop reaching out. And that reaching out can even go beyond the grave.
Be at peace if there is someone in your life that left this world without the chance to say, ‘goodbye,’ without the chance for you to say, ‘I love you,’ or ‘I forgive you,’ or ‘please forgive me.’ Be at peace if there is someone who left this world under tragic circumstances, even the tragedy of murder or suicide. I believe in the deepest part of my soul that even in the darkest moment God finds a way, whether in this life or the next, to heal our broken relationships and make us whole. We just can never give up.
On this feast of the Holy Family, in this season of Christmas, let us pray that any locked doors in our hearts may be opened once again. Let us take the first step and reach out across the miles, across the years, even beyond the grave to heal any relationships that have been broken. With the grace of our loving God in our hearts, we can still become that holy family we are called to be.
Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:
Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry