As many of you may well remember, this Sunday’s celebration of the Holy Family at Nazareth is my nemesis? I have long found it difficult to be comfortable in preaching at Mass on this day. Why? Because I am acutely aware that sitting there in front of me will always be good people of whose family life I am entirely ignorant. The same is true of these reflections which are used by a wide variety of different people in very particular, immediate, family situations which are far from happy and peaceful. There exists in the lives of all of us areas of close, personal, relationships which are in need of healing. So, I find it enormously difficult to launch into some sort of ‘eulogy’ about the glories of family life.

So, this time around I will focus on

HEALING – the healing powers inherent in family life and the power each one of us enjoys to assist in this healing. We are all capable of, for example and by analogy, to throw a tantrum, storm out and slam the door. BUT, we are also capable of emerging from behind the slammed door, and walking back with dignity, regret and apologies (not excuses!). We ARE able to contribute significantly to the restoration of FAMILY! I suspect that real family is only achieved through a series of ‘restorations’. The restoration of a work of art always COSTS, and family restorations cost us in pride, forgiveness, admission of our own inadequacies, and a willingness to RESTOREto recapture what has been lost.

Is this easy or painless? Of course not – and this is why family life is so valuable and

WORTH STRIVING TOWARDS. The joy of family life is only achieved through an ongoing series of restorations.

Let us take a look at

OUR OLD TESTAMENT [SIRACH 3: 2 – 6. 12 – 14] and GOSPEL [MATTHEW 2: 13 – 15. 19 – 23] READINGS.

The extract ends by speaking of “a house raised.” I frequently recall one of my mother’s few ‘absolutes’ which was

“it does not matter where you live but how you live.” A house can be razed (utterly destroyed) to the ground – and so can a family! On the other hand, a house can be raised (built / erected). However, a family must also be raised – built slowly, with hard work, care, and love. It is possible (even if extremely difficult) for a family to be raised without a house! Everything depends on how you live – not where!

If you carefully study the reading, you will discern the ways and manner of how a

FAMILY is raised. I suggest that the manner is far more important than the location! One may enjoy the services of a renown architect and the best master builder, and end up with an awesome mansion – but this will not provide for the raising of family! Inter-personal relationships are the foundation of family. The opposites of the approach outlined by the Sirach reading should be obvious. NOTHING SHOULD BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. If this is ignored then healing of particular situations becomes impossible. It is always possible to go back, visit the ‘site’, assess the damage and make personal contributions to the restoration. IT DOES NOT HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT. A family can be raised. A family can be razed. All depends on the ‘how’ – the manner in which it is all approached.

Now the

GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 2: 13 – 15. 19 – 23]has a message for u and our contemporary world. We are told that Joseph “took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt.”

The holy family were refugees

(and there are thousands of these in the same area today!). They had to flee at a moment’s notice (“and he rose and he took…”). I wonder how much they were able to carry? Was Joseph able to take his carpentry tools with them? They arrived in a strange, foreign, country, and there a FAMILY had to be RAISED. They had to become their own support structure and team. There must have been some bitterness, tears, fear and questioning!?

Let us, by analogy, apply all of this to ourselves. Very often, in order to be healed, families have to become refugees from the known and comfortable. In the process of moving into unknown territory there will be a need to leave a good deal of baggage behind. They will need to build up their own personal resources … as well as seeking out new initiatives. Families seeking a cure must look beyond the immediate symptoms and discover the cause! Very often there is too much dithering and prevarication, looking for excuses and easy solutions.

Saint Paul, in

OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [COLOSSIANS 3: 12 – 21], provides a very basic recipe for the achievement of family healing.

“Put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another … forgiving each other.”

Recipes are not vague indications but have to be followed. If there is a ‘flop’ it has to be discarded, not ‘served up.’ The raising of family might well involve the razing of past approaches and structures!