Homily for December 29

Homily for Holy Family Sunday
Scriptures for today's Mass

It seems to me that this Feast of the Holy Family
could not be more perfectly positioned on the calendar:
just after Christmas which can bring out
both the best and the worst in our family experience
and just before New Year’s
- the time for making resolutions,
a moment to examine our own family’s life and resolve
to mend, heal, fix, repair and restore
whatever’s broken, wounded and failing
in our family relationships.

Or not…
Unfortunately, many, perhaps even most of us, will fail in this regard.
On my blog this past week I wrote this prayer:

• For so long, Lord, for much too long,
we've nursed grudges and resentments,
we've carried backpacks of anger
weighing heavy on our shoulders,
keeping us apart from family and neighbors,
colleagues and classmates  -  and even old friends...

• Now we're just days away from a new year...
We all say we want a fresh start, a second chance, a clean slate -

but do we?
Do we really want a new beginning?

• Or will we once again be content to carry last year's burdens
right through New Year's Eve and into 2020?
Will we cling and hold fast
to old grudges and resentments
as we sing our Auld Lang Syne?

• Will we inaugurate yet another year in the shadows of mistrust:
chips on our shoulders,
our hearts hardened and burdened
with the weight of selfish pride?

• If there won't be time to mend all this
before the clock strikes 12
then help us, Lord, resolve in the new year

to be the first to take the steps  -  toward making peace
where peace has long been wanting...

• We need your help with this, Lord, because up until now, sadly,
we've not managed to do this on our own...

• Help us, Lord, we pray: make all things new among us
in the new year just ahead...

Families… These days there’s lots of news
about the families at our nation’s borders.
Who’s going to be let in?  Who’s going to be kept out?
Who will be cared for?  Who will be ignored?
Who will be welcomed?  Who will be turned away?
Will we build a wall or more freely open our borders?
At what cost will we reach out to those on the margins?
How warmly will we receive those knocking on our door?
And how will we deal with any bad actors
who might come in if the door swings open wide?

The questions we have about the situation at our southern border
are also questions we might ask about the people
“on the borders” of our own families, neighborhoods, social circles;
those on the borders where we work and go to school,
those in the margins of our lives.

• Whom do we welcome in?  Whom do we ignore?
• Whom do we make sure is cared for?  Who’s left out?
• What price are our hearts willing to pay,
what is our pride prepared to spend
to open ourselves to those on the margins of our lives,
to those whom we’ve kept at arm’s length?

• And if we open the doors of our hearts
will we let in others along with their human imperfections
or will we demand of them a perfection
we’ve neither assigned nor achieved ourselves?

 • And please don’t for a moment think that I’m speaking
from any perfect place on my part.
Like many here,
there are in  my own family and in my own social circles
sad examples of how resentment and grudges,
how prejudice and pride, estrange me from others
who are, who could be, who should be
named and welcomed as family by me.

• And even where such estrangement isn’t my own doing or fault
there are certainly times
when I ought to say or I ought do something
to encourage others in my own family
towards healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Times when I should say or do something - but I don’t.

• The situation on our nation’s borders
and the circumstances in our own families are often complex
and not altogether easy to sort out and resolve -
and I believe God understands that.

• What I think God has little patience for, however,
is our intransigence in the face of opportunity,
our stubborn pride when confronted with mercy’s demands,
our selfishness when a situation invites a generosity of spirit,
our silence when we can and should speak a healing word.

• I’m sure the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had its moments, too.
The sweet baby in the manger grew to be an adolescent
who left his frightened and worried parents behind
to go lecture the rabbis at the temple.
They didn’t understand their teenage son.

• Joseph relied on angels in dreams to help him find his way
and figure out  his role in this most unusual family of his.

• And Mary was haunted by a prophecy
that her heart would be wounded with many sorrows.

• Their son was falsely accused, publicly humiliated,
sentenced to death and crucified as a criminal.
The Holy Family we celebrate today definitely  didn’t
have an easy time of it.
Not at all.

• But each member of that family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph:
- each put faith in God ahead of their personal plans,
- all three put hope in God when everything seemed hopeless,
- each was willing to let go of their own desires
in favor of being faithful to what God asked of them,
and each chose love above all,
regardless of what sacrifice such a choice might entail.

• There are legitimate strategic arguments to be made
on both sides of the question of whether or not a wall should be built
at our nation’s border.
In the end, we’ll need to find a way to be faithful
both to caring for those at our door and caring for our own.

• No wall, however, has ever been built or stands
between us and the love of Jesus.
Just look at the Cross:
only outstretched arms, opened in mercy - to all.

• And that’s the stance Jesus asks of each of us in our families
and in relationship to those who live on the borders of our lives.

• Whatever our Christmas celebrations may have revealed
about the walls we’ve built within our own families
and between us and our neighbors and colleagues,
Jesus calls us to find, in the new year ahead of us,
to find ways to open our hearts, our lives and our homes
to those we have forgotten, ignored, shunned and shut out.

• As he welcomes us sinners here at his table
so are we called to welcome those who have trespassed against us
and to find a place for them in our hearts, in our lives.

• Pray with me that we’ll not carry too many
old grudges and resentments into the new year.

• Pray, rather, that we’ll enter 2020, resolved to share
what St. Paul urged on us in his words today,
that we clothe ourselves in   
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,
gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if we have grievances against another.

• Pray that the New Year will be a time for us
to heal and forgive, and to pardon and reconcile with
all those who are family to us,
all God’s sons and daughters,
all our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.



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