Sunday, December 30, 2018

Survive. Sustain. (2018-12-30, Holy Family Sunday)

SUNDAY 30 December 2018    [ HOLY   FAMILY   SUNDAY ]

 Sirach 3:2-6,12-14  • Psalm  128 or Psalm 84   • Colossians 3:12-21  • Luke 2:41-52  

Title:   Holy Family Sunday: Surive, Sustain...

[_01_]  I need to hear something more than once for it to sink in, to understand, to comprehend. As Jesus says, “he who has ears, let him hear.”  (Matthew 11:15).
          I may need to hear something more than once, repeatedly.
          When I was preparing the December 30th Mass schedule, I asked Father _ to say 9:30 am Mass. He promptly responded that would be away. I thanked him for his note and did not write down what he told me.
          Then, I created the schedule and put it up in the sacristy with his name as the priest for 9:30 am on Sunday December 30.  He told me again that he would be away. I said thanks, and promptly forgot this as well.
          Finally, last Thursday, I emailed him to confirm that he would be here on Sunday December 30 at 9:30 am. He reminded me again.  My bad. Finally, it dawned on me. LISTEN. LISTEN.
          Sometimes, we have to hear things more than once. Repetition helps.
          As Jesus says, “he who has ears, let him hear.”  (Matthew 11:15).
[_02_]  The family is a place for us to have ears, to hear.
          What do we hear? What lessons are REPEATED for us in our families, in family life?
          And, when I say “family life”, I remind myself and all of us that we all have a family history and family experience that has made us the children of God, the young adults, the adults, the women and men we are.  And, our family history is a place of REPETITION.
 [_03_] First, SURVIVAL. This repetition teaches about SURVIVAL, about remaining alive. For a child to survive, to remain alive, he or she needs repeated – daresay constant connection and affection with the family and especially with his or her mother.  A very small child, as we understand, holds so tightly to his or mother that he does not even know the mother and child could have separate personalities or social security numbers.  It is true that this BONDING may take a little while to develop, but once it does develop, it teaches both the parent and the child that survival and intimacy are one and the same.  It takes repetition. Family life teaches us about survival and coming alive. We do not come alive – or survive - as individuals but in the family unit.
 [_04_]   2nd, SUSTAINING.  We are also SUSTAINED in the family, not simply sustained by our own individual efforts.
          I believe we are sustained – especially -- by the repetition of forgiveness.
          And, in the family unit – especially under the same roof – we can experience how beautiful and effective it is to forgive someone.
          It is relatively easy to withhold forgiveness to harbor a grudge against someone whom we see only occasionally … let’s say we are speaking of a co-worker we see a few times per month. On the other hand, is not true that the lessons we learn about forgiveness to many people – at home, at work, at school anywhere - who might trespass against us?
          In my own experience, I have found that I need not only my own will and my own energy to extend forgiveness but also God’s help. I need prayer, quiet time. I need repetition.
          There is s saying that time heals all wounds…but I have also found that it depends on what you are doing with that time.
          I can recall in certain instances, I have held tightly to a grudge because I was not yet ready to pray for the person, to forgive.
          In other instances, I can recall praying for someone, and then experiencing great calm.
          In one instance, I recall praying for someone, not seeing the person for about a month or so. And, when I did, the first though in my head was, “oh yeah, I was supposed to be mad at you.”  (Fortunately, I did not say this out loud.).
          Why had my anger subsided? It was not because of my own efforts, but because of God’s gift and grace.   And, in the interim, I had been praying for this person. I believe these prayers were examples of the necessary repetition we need in order to forgive others, to sustain ourselves with God’s mercy.
          And, through both the positive and negative, I have learned something of the EFFECTIVENESS and the DEFECTIVNESS of NON-FORGIVENESS.
          And, by “defective”, it does not mean that I was “defective”…but withholding the forgiveness was a defect, was a fault… and God can change this from “defect” to “effect”, when we allow him to work in our lives.
 [_05_]   We also need repetition to discover our true calling, our true selves in life.
          This applies to me, it applies even to the 12 year old Jesus, the Son of God.
          In this mysterious event at the Temple, Mary teaches us something about the need not only for speech but also for silence, for reflection, for prayer, especially when we are not sure what to say.
          Jesus offered an explanation, “did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).
          Jesus is insisting that Mary must have known. And, in retrospect, it’s easy for us to say that Mary must have known. Did you not know? Didn’t the angel tell you?
          Well, yes, Mary – and also Joseph – were visited by angels.
          But, the angels did not give them a full text download with a timeline and a predefined list of mysteries.
          They may – in their hearts – have anticipated the difficulty of separation, some fore knowledge that Jesus would be, as Simeon says, the “fall and the rise of many in Israel.”
          Isn’t it true that we may also expect or anticipate difficulties or crises from time to time in marriage, in  family, at school, at work? But, when they happen, we still ask “why?”
          Mary asks “why” today.
          Mary has said – as so many parents would – all she possibly can under the circumstances. But, then, she is silent, still and surely her example – her interior life with God – teaches Jesus something about his own survival, his own bond with God as his Father, and his own need for confidence in God.
          Our Blessed Mother, Mary,  also needed to hear this Good News more than once.
          And, in this regard, Mary – together with Joseph– teaches us by their REPETITION –and repeated prayers -  to keep all these things, pondering them, reflecting on them in her heart.   [_fin_]

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