The Holy Family – A Reflection Near Home
The family photo-album is not produced very often and even then only on very special occasions and only for very special people. Our past is a very intimate part of us. We would not like strangers to ‘burgle” our bank of youth. When the daughter of the house becomes engaged, it is customary to invite her fiancé to peruse the family album. Here, he will meet his future partner at all the important moments of her past. There will be snap-shots of her as a baby in her mother’s arms, sleeping in her cot, playing on the floor and in the garden. Baptism, birthdays, Confirmation, holidays, school outings and for some graduation. The record seems virtually complete. And yet, in most cases, what is missing from the album is far more important than what it contains. For one thing, the camera catches only the smiles and they were often both fleeting and false. There is not a single shot of baby’s tantrums and they were far more frequent and furious. The events recorded are all special. Our past had no roving camera to catch us unawares, doing what we did every day. There is no film of our sickness and setbacks. There are no tears framed here, no pain, and no sorrow.
The Holy Family
Things are far different when it comes to the Holy Family. In Lukes gospel he has albumed a different set of pictures of the Holy Family. He does not shy away from the sordid or the sad. The animal eating-trough where Mary cradled her baby is included. There is a dark side to each of the events pictured here. The innkeeper’s refusal, Herod’s death threat, exile in Egypt, Simeon’s warning, lost in Jerusalem. The annals that trace the early years of that family between Bethlehem and Nazareth, with its stint as emigrants in a foreign country, fairly reek of poverty and deprivation.
A Reflection Near Home
Few would dispute that the family today is a threatened institution. In most developed countries it is ravaged by divorce. The breakdown rate for us in Canada now hovers around the fifty percent mark. Parental authority is seriously undermined. The television and the computer have replaced the hearth as the focal point in the family room. Commercials, beam into the sanctuary of the home, raise expectations which many budgets can never hope to satisfy. Even the very young are targeted as potential customers. While poverty can sometimes be benign, debt often proves malignant. For marriage it can prove terminal. Adversity, on the other hand, only serves to strengthen family ties. Such was the experience of the Holy Family.
If marriage today is in crisis it may be because we are following the wrong models. Perhaps we have traded the Holy Family for our favorite soap opera or sitcom. We should peruse again that family album. Family solidarity comes through in each incident recorded, in bold belief. Mary’s concern and care for her child is transparent. Joseph hovers in the background protectively. The danger, the poverty that overshadowed their early marriage, bonded them more closely together.