December 28, 2014

Holy Family (B)

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. – Luke 2: 40

   Dr. Will Durant was well-known & highly respected for his distinguished career as author, journalist, & educator. Among his written works were “The Story of Philosophy,” (a best seller) & his monumental “The Story of Civilization,” which he co-authored with his wife Ariel. As he grew older, Dr. Durant began to reflect more & more on the question, “What is happiness?”

   He himself had sought happiness in very many places since his earliest years. He sought it in work, in pleasure, in travel. He sought it in knowledge, in honors, & in achievement. His life had been a tangled stretch of dreams & hopes & disillusions, the good & the bad together. But at last in his mature years, he found what he had been seeking. What was it?

   He heard a voice within him say, “You have in yourself all the faults which you scorn in others; you to are capable of selfishness & greed; & the world is what it is because of men like you.” That is when he began to grapple seriously with the “happiness” question. In his own words: “One day, at a little station out on a wooded cliff near the sea, I saw a woman waiting in a tiny car, with a child asleep in her arms. A man alighted from a train, walked to her, embraced her & kissed the child gently, careful lest he should awaken it. They drove off together to some modest home among the fields; & it seemed to me that happiness was with them.”

   This highly sophisticated, highly travelled, highly educated, highly talented, highly honored man fulfilled his search for a definition of happiness in a simple, fleeting, real-life study in a family portrait.

   It was in a family setting that our Lord first knew the joy of being loved, that He learned his first lessons in how to love. It was in a family setting that Jesus began to develop His deep sense of loyalty to His Father’s will & to His ministry to all mankind.

   The late Sam Levinson, known for his delightful homespun brand of comedy, wrote a book about his experience of family life, in which he said the following:

“I was raised in a section of New York that was called a slum by sightseeing guides & a depressed area by sociologists. Both were right. Our neighborhood fulfilled all the sordid requirements with honors. We were unquestionably above average in squalid tenements, putrid pool rooms, cold flats, hot roofs, dirty streets & flying garbage. Yet, paradoxically, I never felt depressed or deprived. My environment was miserable; I was not.

   “I was a most fortunate child. Ours was a home rich enough in family harmony & love to immunize eight kids against the potentially toxic effects of the environment beyond our door. Since the social scientists do not, as far as I know, have a clinical name for the fortunate possessors of this kind of emotional security, I might suggest they label them ‘the privileged poor’.”

   In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we read: “Bear with one another; forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds together & makes them perfect. Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts” (3: 12-15). Herein, Paul gives us the characteristics of the ideal Christian family. Our individual gifts & our life circumstances may differ; but for all members of Christ’s family, the formula for living is the same. It certainly describes the Holy Family in Nazareth.

   The widespread abandonment of Christian orthodoxy in our nation today has been followed by the disintegration of family life, & indeed, we now want to change the very definition of what a family is. Hardly surprising, but alarming nonetheless. We are sowing the wind which will reap the whirlwind. I think we tend to overlook the extent to which Jesus learned so much about His faith from His parents. They played a crucial role in His early development. They must have been truly devout Jews who took their faith seriously.

   I’ve heard many reports about families that were turned around when one of both of the parents began to take the faith seriously. If your own family is in disarray, you might want to take a look at the non-existence or superficiality of the faith in your home life.  AMEN!