Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Christmas Day evening for me was spent back in Wollongong with my extended family – brothers, partners, grandkids and great-grandkids. This has been our family tradition for several decades, so it works well for me, even though I now live in Melbourne.
Of course, I’m completely different from each of my brothers. I’m my own man, as the saying goes. At least, that’s what I think. My non-blood relatives, however, think otherwise. “You’re so like your brothers,” they say. According to them, we have similar mannerisms, similar physical gestures, similar ways of laughing and talking. It seems that our family resemblances go well beyond our shared DNA.
It’s a funny thing how families can be made up of such diverse individuals, yet at the same time be so alike. This combination of similarity and diversity is, I think, one of the deepest reasons why family life is at the very core of human life. It is not simply that families share a biological make-up; we also share a way of living and being in the world. I am uniquely myself, but there are a few others who are similarly configured. As families grow – and new members are added – those shared mannerisms, gestures, histories and outlooks are passed on to new generations.
The personality, mannerisms, gestures and experiences of Jesus, the Son of God, were shaped and formed within his family with Mary and Joseph. It would be completely wrong to think of Jesus, as a man, as having somehow lived his life separate from or beyond that of his family. He was Joseph’s and Mary’s son, picking up their family traits, sense of humour, way of being. Their experiences in life – and how those formed them – became part of Jesus’ outlook on life, and how he was formed.
That Mary and Joseph lived a precarious and marginalised existence early on in their life together is evident in the stories we tell at Christmas – think of the unlooked-for journey to Bethlehem to give birth; the escape into Egypt as refugees; the need to settle in Nazareth for safety’s sake. These are all formative moments in the lives of the Nazarene’s family, and they shaped the story of Jesus and his outlook on life.
As Christians, we have been grafted onto the family of Jesus. We are his brothers and sisters, his relatives – if not by blood, then by adoption into the family of God. Therefore, we too, have been invited to be sharers in the stories, characteristics, outlooks and ways of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We share the family resemblance.
St Paul is one of our family members. He once helpfully wrote down a few words to describe what our family looks like (or at least should): “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.”
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance; forgiveness; love and peace. Find your adjective here, and you will find your family home.