Monday, December 29, 2008

Holy Family Sunday

Yesterday I went down to Lacey to meet up with Jason and Katy at the Saint Martin's Abbey. Afterwards, I was going with them to help them move from their apartment to their new home.

Sitting in Church I was excited to see Father Benedict (Joey's namesake) was going to be giving the homily. Father Benedict is one of my favorite people and monk from Saint Martin's. He was my teacher, priest, and friend throughout my years in college and he has always been so good to Josh and I. Anyways, he gave an awesome and thought provoking homily yesterday and was nice enough to send it to me today.

He talks about about parents are the first teachers of love and that as a parent it is up to us to provide for our children a way to become wise and knowledgable through love. I thought it was a great homily and would like to share it. Thank you Father Benedict!

In an all too real piece of fiction, a little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says: “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son's room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here's the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. Then he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time and selves into our family life as laypeople and even our community life as monks.

During WWII the noted child psychoanalyst Anna Freud directed three nurseries, which housed young children
separated from their families. In War and Children she wrote:

The war acquires comparatively little significance
for children so long as it only threatens their lives,
disturbs their material comfort or cuts off their food rations. It becomes
enormously significant
the moment it breaks up family life and uproots
the first emotional attachments of the child within the family group. London
children, therefore, were on the whole much less upset by bombing than by
evacuation to the country as protection against it…. It is a known fact that
children will cling even to mothers who are continually cross and sometimes
cruel to them.

The regular presence of parents is a constant assurance of safety for every young child. The family,
no matter what its shortcomings, is the fundamental human connection. There are flaws in every human connection, but even the most fragile families tend to be more supportive to a young child than institutional upbringing. When I was eight my father died, in one sense he had already stopped being an essential part of the family, spending most his time drinking at bars.
My mother was ill and had to be operated on the summer after his death, and told myself who seven and my brother who was four that if she died she had arranged for us to be put into an orphanage where we would be taken care of. The Death of a father and the threat of impending death of a mother shaped in me PTS, Post-Traumatic Syndrome, when first I was told this, my response was “I did not serve in Vietnam,” and the psychiatrist said “You did not have to, the events in your childhood traumatized you.” I had never ever thought of that yet on further study abandonment issues are at the root of many individual’s problems.

Parents are the first teachers of love; their attachment to their children shows them that they are worthy of love, shows them how to love. It is very hard for a child to grow up without the caring support of that attachment. Luke shows us in today’s gospel how the parents of Jesus fulfill the requirements of their religious tradition, and how the child Jesus grows in wisdom and maturity under their care. To know the meaning of love, Jesus only has to consult his experience. This love will give him the security and the freedom which will enable him to become himself, and although he is more than Mary and Joseph can ever give him, their influence on him can never be underestimated .

In remembering the Holy Family, we look at our own family in gratitude for what we have received, or in understanding for what we have not gotten. The Feast of the Holy Family that we celebrate today is not an old feast – it was instituted in 1921. But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as a family, has always since the first scriptures acted as a model for all Christians. Each of us come from families or communities that consist of an assortment of weird and wonderful relatives or fellow community members. None of our families or communities is all holy; each is a mixture of all sorts of conflicts, compulsions and craziness that tests our love and forgiveness. But in the midst of all that, there is God. Mary had bad hair days, unlike all Renaissance paintings. Joseph somedays must have thrown up his hands when the work in his shop was not done just right and said to himself, “This kid is not going to make a carpenter,” and he didn’t. And Jesus himself was human, sinless but human, he had temptations, he had
the occasional headache. No family is perfect. When Jesus is lost in the Temple and Mary and Joseph have to go back and find him, I am sure they were a little fearsome and probably even peeved. Holy Family does not mean 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, but rather the search for God’s will in the midst of life’s trials.
I wonder if Jesus even tracked in mud after Mary had cleaned the house spotlessly. Food for thought.
It is the struggle that counts, the end result is up to God.