HOLY FAMILY – Year C – 30 December

My own family was – and remains – a blessing. My father was a wise, thinking, man. Mother was steadfast, always there, both astute, perceptive, and realistic. Both of them had a ‘vision’ of what the family should be, and it is only in recent years that I have become aware of how, together, we were formed. Then, as I look back there is a growing realisation that in the formation, my parents were, themselves, formed. It was, for them, an ongoing process.

As a result, words from TODAY’S PSALM [84 or 83] have a real meaning: “blessed is the (person) whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrim ways.”

Pilgrim ways! A pilgrim is a learner, someone who is OPEN to discovery. It is dangerous for any disciple – no matter how old – to reach a stage when it is believed there is no need tolearn anything more, or discover new dimensions to the unfolding plan of God for each and every individual who is on pilgrimage. We are all on a journey from birth-to-death-to-life.

Pilgrims travel together. So do families – and there

are many different forms and expressions of family. I do not believe that this Sunday’s celebration should restrict our focus to parents, children, and a house in which everything and everyone should be shining examples of Gospel perfection.

So, in the home, in the Parish, at work, sport, and in the Church itself – are we truly striving to develop and grow Gospel relational gifts, attributes, and ways of interacting with one another? I suspect that in all of this the one basic need is for us not only to listen but to HEAR what others are saying to us. When we actually hear what the other is saying, then there is a call and need to RESPOND, and not merely (as so often happens when we only listen) REACT! Perhaps the greatest need in all families is to become more PRO-ACTIVE in encouraging others to speak in order that we might HEAR?!

So, let us look at the other three Scriptures which accompany the Psalm already mentioned:

1 SAMUEL 1: 20 -22. 24 – 28

1 JOHN 3: 1 – 2. 21 – 24

LUKE 2: 41 – 52

In the Old Testament reading there are two particular verses on which we could reflect. Both verses record words spoken by Hannah. The first records that she said “I have asked him of the Lord.” The second tells us that she makes a sort of promise to God with the words “I have lent him to the Lord, as long as he lives he is lent to the Lord.” In the first instance we see that Hannah had made a specific request of God, and he had granted it. She recognised from the outset that her child was a gift from God, and in the first place ‘belonged’ to him. Secondly, while the boy would always be her son, as long as he lived he was lent to God. In other words, Samuel was given over to God’s will and purpose. Here there is, so to speak, an ‘un-possessive ‘ possessiveness.

In this there is a vital challenge to all parents and leaders of any group, society or community (including Church leaders!). The basic question is this: do we love and trust our children, members, and leaders in our care and under our supervision to set them free? Have we trained them to be responsible, increased that responsibility as growth and maturity has developed, do we encourage them to be their own persons, and accept theresults of what WE have trained and formed? We asked God for children, for leaders, priests and bishops. He has given them to us. They are not our personal possessions. There comes a stage when we must be able to say “I have lent (them) to the Lord, as long as they live (they) are lent to the Lord.” Possessiveness and ongoing control lead to suffocation of the individual – or rebellion. NO HAPPY FAMILIES, THEN!

“We are God’s children” Saint John tells us in the New Testament reading, and he continues to talk about “the Spirit which he has given us;” to each one individually. Also, the apostle speaks about having “confidence before God.” Apply this to all that has been mentioned so far.

Finally, all parents and leaders must take to mind and heart the very clear and simple message of today’s Gospel. Our children and group members will remain subject to us in love and respect provided we do not seek anxiously after them when we should knowbetter.

If we lend back what we have been lent, we will discover, as our Psalm informs us, “the threshold of the house of God.”