A mere 48-hours ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus into the

WORLD, our world. Today we celebrate another feast – The Holy Family! So, this Sunday I want us all to reflect on the word family, and widen our focus way, way, beyond the family of relatives and friends with whom we celebrated Christmas which is so often described as a family feast.

Let our reflection include two particular aspects which, in reality, are challenges. In doing this we could profitably anchor our thinking on some words from

TODAY’S PSALM [84 or 83]: “my heart and my flesh cry out to the living God … blessed is the man whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrim ways.”

The first aspect to be considered is the current and so-called refugee crisis which has rent public opinion and national responses into shreds. There among these refugees live thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters. I wonder what sort of Christmas they enjoyed? How many Christian-Catholic homes spared a thought and prayer for them when particular families gathered around the

CHRISTMAS table?

Too often we forget that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were also, soon after the Child’s birth, refugees who had to flee a corrupt and evil political

regime. Surely on that flight into Egypt their prayer would have been “my heart and my flesh cry out to the living God?” Is it impossible to accept that recently this prayer must have been in the hearts and on the lips of other refugees making their way into Europe?

No one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land …

No one spends days and nights in the stomach

of a truck feeding on newspaper

unless the miles travelled mean something more than the journey.

[WARSAN SHIRE … a Somali poet]

Does any of this truly move our hearts? Have we forgotten the existence of thousands of refugees present in our own country?

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 JOHN 3: 1 – 2. 21 – 24] commences with the words “beloved, see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” Are refugees not children of God beloved as we are? They are in fact a part of OUR WORLD. It is the same world that The Child was born into! Refugees belong to the same FAMILY we do …. and so we are! Family is, and never should be, confined to those who came together in our homes two days ago. The Irish author,JOHN KEANE in a book entitled, very appropriately for our purpose, SELF PORTRAIT writes that “underneath it all was the heart-broken frightful anguish of separation. It would be a waste of time for me to launch into a description of what went on. A person has to be part of it to feel it.” This celebration of The Holy Family challenges us to FEEL IT as family members!

Then there is the second aspect of our celebration which needs to be faced and accepted. This is the

FAMILY OF THE CHURCH. It is also in the Church that we are the beloved children of the Father. At once we return to the words of our Psalm which speak of the person “whoseheart is set on pilgrim ways.” The family of the Church must be a pilgrim family – a family on the move, a family which has not yet ‘arrived’.

The family which is fully alive is a family on the move, involved in growth and discovery

. The moment we start to see the Church as static and complete in itself we do real damage. A family is essentially a bridge which helps and encourages its members to move onward and forward – TO GROW UP! Pope Francis teaches us that “a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission; instead of being a bridge it becomes a roadblock.”

TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 2: 41 – 52]

reminds us that the Holy Family were pilgrims with all the hazards of travelling with a 12-year old. Yet they found each other. We too need to find ourselves as familyand grow in wisdom and stature.

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