Today, the First Sunday of the Christmas Season, the Church celebrates the Holy Family. The many depictions of the birth of Christ, surrounded by Mary and Joseph, and all the other members of the Christmas story tell us that all families find their true center and identity in Christ.
Hopefully, you are enjoying some time with family during this Christmas season. I am blessed with the family that is entrusted to me as a bishop, the People of God of the Diocese of Cheyenne. I always enjoy the Midnight Mass celebration in the Cathedral. It is a great way to give thanks to God while at the same time praying with so many members of the faith family.
I am also blessed with my own family. This year, on Christmas day I flew home to spend time with my family in Southern Indiana. Even though I only slept about three hours, sharing Christmas dinner with my family was worth the effort.
One thing that family life teaches us is that love is inconvenient. Sure, there are great moments in every family, and these become the special memories recalled later in life. There are many family moments of enjoying the love that binds a family together. But, it is the love that surfaces and comes to the aid of one another in times of need and crisis that are truly the foundation of family life. These are the moments when love is not easy, when love is inconvenient.
Every family knows those experiences when harsh words are spoken, and feelings are hurt. There are times when someone is unintentionally overlooked. For family life to go on and ‘get back on track’ someone needs to say “I am sorry,” and someone else needs to say “I forgive you.” There are times when someone is sick or in trouble, and someone else needs to put their own plans on hold in order to serve the other. These are the moments when love is inconvenient, when love is tested, when true love is proven.
In our families, are we willing to take our turn in serving the others? Am I willing to surrender my own needs and plans in order to allow or help someone else do what they want to do or give them what they need? Am I willing to ask for forgiveness when I hurt a member of the family, or willing to forgive them when they disappoint or hurt me? Such is love. Such is family life.
The reality of family life teaches us that love is demanding and rewarding. This is why true family life keeps Christ at the center.
Christ teaches us that love is always willing to ‘go out’ of one’s self to encounter the other – to serve the other. True love allows one to be inconvenienced by the needs of others. True love is always willing to forgive, (over and over again) to heal, and to speak a comforting word. True love accepts others for who they are, while always helping them to become better. True love is willing to go where people are, and help them find their way home – to their true self – to their place at the family table, and ultimately, to our true home with our Father in heaven.
No family is perfect. Every family has its challenges. That’s why there is love. That is why we need Christ, and why we welcome him into every home. We give thanks that God chose to become a member of a human family. We continue to welcome Jesus into our homes and our families. This is where we learn to love. The family is where we learn the demands and the rewards of love.
Let’s hear it for the family!