What makes a family holy?

Love's Bond by Timothy P. Schmalz

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

We all know that THE Holy Family 
consisted of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 
But what about our own families, yours and mine,
the ones we grew up in:
did you grow up in a holy family?

Before you jump to a quick answer to that question,
let’s take a moment to consider what makes a family holy.
And to do that, we have to reach some agreement
on what we mean by “holy.”

Many people believe that “holy” means “perfect.”
Well, God is holy and God IS perfect
but outside the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
perfection is pretty hard to find.

I don’t need to be perfect to be holy.
To be holy is to strive faithfully to be and to become more and more
the person God made me to be.

It’s not all that complicated.

Spiritual writer James Martin puts it this way:
Just remember three things:
You're not God. This ain't heaven. Don't act like a jerk!

That’s holiness!

In other words:
God’s in charge. Life is hard. Love one another  even when it hurts.

Actually, to be HOLY is to recognize honestly that I’m NOT perfect:
a big part of being holy is being honest about the times 
when I’m un-holy,
when I need to ask for God’s forgiveness and help
to keep me from making the same mistake again.

And if I fall, if I fail again,
then I need to depend more and more on God’s mercy and strength
to help me be, to help me be more faithfully,
the person God made me to be,
to help the sinner I am to be a little more – holy.

It’s a waste of time to judge my holiness
by comparing it with someone else’s.
But people do this all the time.
I won’t be judged by how I measure up to Mother Theresa.
I’ll only be judged on how faithfully 
I became the man God made me to be.
Mother Theresa might be a great model for me
but I’m not called to be her – I’m called to be me,
and you are called to be you – as God made you.

Families are called to be holy, too,
since families are made up of human beings.
A family is called to strive faithfully to be a community of persons
who love and care for one another.

No family does this perfectly.
Not even that family that you think is so perfect.
I assure you: they are not!
Their problems may be different than your family’s problems;
you might rather have their family’s problems than your own;
and your  difficulties may be greater than theirs:
but God will never call your family to be like the Jones’s.

God calls every family to strive, faithfully, to be and grow together
in and through its own circumstances,
with all the gifts and graces, all the beauty and the brokenness,
the generosity and the greed, the sacrifice and the selfishness,
the hopes and the hurts that mark every family.

The Lord does not judge a family by its brokenness
but rather by how a family seeks to heal 
and reconcile with one another in the brokenness.

Every family, without exception, is called to do this.

In the second lesson today,
St. Paul writes to folks he names as “holy and beloved”
but still sees the need to remind them to put on:
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
to bear with one another
and to forgive the grievances they have against one another;
and to put on love and to let Christ’s peace rule their hearts.
This is the advice he gives to those he thinks are holy!

In other words, he’s saying:
Remember this: You're not God. This ain't heaven. Don't act like jerks!
Be holy.
Strive to be the persons, the families God made you to be.
And when you fail, and your will, ask for mercy and try again.

I’ve known many broken families who were also holy families,
not perfect families but holy families,
some of them are represented here at this Mass this morning:
families torn by every kind of hurtful problem you might imagine
and yet families who strove to be compassionate, kind, gentle, 
loving, patient and forgiving  --  perfectly?  NO!
But did they try?  Yes.
And most of all they tried to be forgiving of just the family members
who caused the biggest problems.

Holiness does not consist in being perfect.
Rather, holiness is a path, to be chosen,  a path which leads to God,
a path we need to strive to walk faithfully,
even though we may fail along the way.

When it comes to personal holiness or a family’s holiness,
we might be tempted to think that “one size should fit all.”
I hope our own experience of ourselves, of others, of other families
might show us what I’m sure God knows,
that every family has its own size and fit when it comes to holiness.

THE Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
certainly didn’t fit the customary pattern:
a virgin mother, a foster father, a 12-year-old son who runs away,
convinced that he must preach God’s word in the temple in Jerusalem.
And THEY are the holiest of all holy families!
Each of these three strove, faithfully,
to be what God's love asked of them.

Not because we are all that holy
but because we seek to walk the holy path to God,
the Lord invites us, our church family, to his table this morning
and we come here, as a parish, with all the gifts and graces,
the beauty and brokenness,
the generosity and greed, the sacrifice and selfishness,
the hopes and the hurts that mark every family.

May the sacrament we receive here
renew our desire in the New Year ahead
to walk that path that leads each of us,
our families
and all of us
to the holiness of God.


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1 comment:

  1. Love this! Thank you! It's just what I needed!

    St. James' parish Setauket, N.Y.


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