The Feast of the Holy Family

12-31-2017Pastor's LetterRev. Gregory B. Wilson, VF

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this Holy Family Sunday, I offer a reminder of why I start my columns the way that I do. In Judaism of the time of Jesus, your family was your tribe. Aramaic does not have a word for cousin. If you were a member of a tribe, then what we today might term as "cousins" in English were all called brothers and sisters. Today, we make distinctions between first and second cousins, third cousins once-removed, etc. We might help a first cousin because we consider them "close family," but we might ignore the plea of a fifth cousin because they are too distant of a relation. In Jesus' time even they would still be your brother or sister.

Through Baptism we become members of Jesus' "tribe." Though all humanity is created in God's image, it is through Holy Baptism that we are incorporated into the actual mystical Body of Christ in a wonderful and irrevocable way. We become adopted sons and daughters of one Father, which makes us brothers and sisters. "[God] destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of His will, (Ephesians 1:5); see also Romans 8:14-16 and Galatians 4:4-7 for two more examples).

The point is that we are bound to one another as a very large but genuine family. We are called to go beyond the mere earthly bonds of blood relationships or of law (e.g., in-laws) to a more profound relationship with each other through Baptism in Christ Jesus. The person who sits next to you at Mass is not a stranger – he or she is truly your brother or sister. Smile. Greet one another. And just like any family, although we might not all agree on every issue or want to "hang out" with everyone equally, we still love each other because we are family.

So, Pope Francis gave three things that make both our nuclear families and our parish family holy:

  1. A family prays. It is true that the family that prays together, stays together. Likewise, our parish family prayer is the Holy Mass. It is what makes any family strong: prayer. We miss those who aren't here because we love them. Pray with your family.
  2. The family keeps the faith. Both at home and as a parish, is the faith some "personal treasure" like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness? Christian families are missionary families. In their doing everyday things, they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith.
  3. The family experiences joy. If God's love is lacking, a family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails, and joy fades. But the family that experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

I love you like family because we are family. Let us pray for and support each other!

Father Wilson