Tag Archives: Holy Family

Home Sick

by Howard Hain

I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


 

The Holy Family

 

Luke 2,41-52

For most people, Christmas is over– the music’s stopped; Santa Claus is gone from the malls. The decorations are down and put away. It’s over.

But in church Christmas isn’t over. We’re still singing  carols and continue to celebrate as we think  about what it means when we say “our God was made visible.”

Today’s the feast of the Holy Family. The Word was made flesh, and as the child of Mary and Joseph Jesus was part of a family in the small town of Nazareth in  hills of  Galilee.

For one thing, families then were extended families or clans, living close together and working side by side. Archeological excavations in Nazareth and Capernaum (pictures below) make that clear. Families worked together in the fields or in  business, they ate together and moved together, as they still do in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere today.

holy familyCapernaumruinsDSC00062

It’s safe to say that nuclear families didn’t exist then. A nuclear family– mother, father and children– is a modern form of family life. Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus were not all by themselves in a small house in Nazareth. Rather, Jesus was raised in an extended family where  grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles, aunts and cousins lived together and were involved in bringing him up.

That doesn’t take away the part Mary and Joseph played in his upbringing, of course. They weren’t props, standing by while angels brought him up. Some of the apocryphal gospels – early stories about Jesus which the church rejected  – seem to say that.  One  story describes the Child Jesus forming  the figure of a bird from clay, then breathing on it, and instantly it becomes a living bird and flies away. Stories like that presented him exercising  miraculous powers as a child.

The church rejected those stories because they gave a  false picture of Jesus growing up. He “was subject” to Mary and Joseph, the gospel of Luke says. He grew up in their care as an ordinary child would.

Like mothers and fathers everywhere, they saw to his needs, they held him in their arms,  fed him, clothed him,  stayed up at night when he was sick. They taught him his first words,  guided his first steps,  nudged him along this way and that.

They  brought him to church–the synagogue, the temple–as we see in today’s gospel from Luke. They instructed him in his tradition. They taught him to pray,  interpreted events for him,  listened to his questions,  encouraged him over and over. They had their misunderstandings, as today’s gospel  indicates. In fact, they  influenced his life.

Yes, angels were there, but at a distance.  Mary and Joseph and that larger family and village around him raised the Child.

Today’s  feast of the Holy Family takes in the years of Jesus’ childhood and early adult life called his “Hidden Life.” His  years in that nondescript town among those ordinary people were truly hidden, yet were they less important than his Public Life, the few years he taught and did great miracles,  suffered and died and rose from the dead? In those hidden years “he humbled himself.”  A hidden life is important; it’s what mostly characterizes life in a family.

We need to think about family life today, because it’s in trouble.  For one thing, the nuclear family– father, mother, children– is  in trouble. I read some disturbing statistics recently. In every state in our country, families where children have two parents have declined significantly in the last 10 years. One of three children live in a home without a father. Almost 5 million children live in a home without a mother. A single mother may have an income of $24,000. Two parents are likely to have an income significantly greater.

What can we do? How can we help? Feasts  like the Holy Family focus our attention on important things.  They remind us what’s important in God’s eyes. The feast of the Holy Family focuses on the family. It’s important, it says.  At the same time, it tells us God’s grace will be ours when we work to make families go and when we support them all we can.  God points to family life today. It’s vitally important in our world.

Friday Thoughts: Portrait of the Catholic as a Middle-Aged Man

 

george-seurat-aman-jean-portrait-of-edmond-francois-amna-jean-1882-83

Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean (Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean)”, 1882-83, (The Met)

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So much is not seen.

What is heard hardly tells the story.

The hairline leaves little to gaze upon.

A good sergeant, he worries little about appearances.

He often feels what he believes is slipping away beneath his feet.

The commands barked from above seem detached from the situation on the ground.

He follows orders anyway.

To many he is somewhat of a joke.

A puppet. A man who cant think for himself.

Some may even use the word ‘coward’.

But none of this is accurate of course.

No, he is a man of honor.

A noble-man.

He takes his vows and commitments seriously.

He will protect his wife. He will raise his children.

He will stand when others hide.

He will walk forward when others turn away.

Firm and steadfast.

He lives out daily the faith of his fathers.

Quietly and efficiently as possible.

No, he’s certainly not perfect.

And of this he is very conscious.

So much so he wonders often if God has chosen the wrong man.

And this is saving grace.

Humility is purgatorial.

It burns away the dross.

It polishes the trophy.

It propels him to love to heroic measures.

It keeps him around, in the game, engaged, alive, an active participant.

As much as it hurts, he knows it’s true, and he carries on, toward the goal.

Toward what he cannot see, toward what he certainly does not understand.

This man is a hero of faith.

And at the same time he is just another Joe.

Another Tom, Dick or Harry.

But in heaven, when all is said and done, he shall receive a crown.

His cross finally laid down, he shall finally see it as a walking stick.

A beautifully-crafted staff in the hand of a just and upright man.

A righteous upholder of God’s eternal law.

Then he shall take his place, very close to the King and Queen, right beside that other unknown man named Joe.

That common nobody led by angels and mocked by men.

The one chosen by God to raise the Messiah.

For where you find the anonymous man of whom I speak, you too shall discover the Holy Family.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

On earth as it is in heaven.

A little humble home in the middle of nowhere.

An eternal kingdom emanating all that is good.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/339751.

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* Dedicated to my good friend, who I greatly admire.

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Morning Thoughts: Home Sick

.

I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


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—Howard Hain

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Monday Night at the Mission

 

I spoke this evening at our mission at Holy Family Church. How can we know Jesus Christ? Through the Scriptures.

What version would I recommend? I like the New American Bible because it’s the version closest to what we use in our liturgy and it’s got great notes. It’s also been recently revised to benefit from new bible manuscripts come to light, new archeological discoveries, and new historical and biblical scholarship.

A drawback of a version like the King James is that it stands still and doesn’t benefit from these advances. Fundamentalists would say it’s the Word of God and doesn’t need updating. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, welcomes the advance in understanding  and new biblical knowledge as advancing our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Biblical fundamentalism, by its nature, neglects the gifts of reason. It’s a step backward.

One thing I noticed in the hymns we sang tonight in Holy Family is their rich scriptural base. They’re words from the bible, which are a step towards a biblical spirituality.

I reflected on two sections of Isaiah, the great prophet of Advent. His promise of the kingdom coming on God’s holy mountain seems so unrealistic, given the circumstances Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain, faced in his day. But Isaiah spoke of  a promise that comes from God who is with us, who teaches us to pray and live in hope for what’s beyond human power to bring about.

I also spoke of the spirituality of childhood, which calls us to be free from crippling anxieties, forgetful of injuries, sociable, and wonder at all things. At the pinnacle of God’s holy mountain Isaiah, and Jesus after him, places a Child.

Sepphoris

Today’s gospel from Luke says that Mary and Joseph customarily took the Child up to Jerusalem for the yearly Passover feast. But was Jerusalem the only place they took him? Surely, they had friends and relatives in Cana and Capernaum, as well as in the Judean hill country, whom they visited from time to time? I don’t think they were a reclusive family hiding in the hills.

What about Sepphoris– Zippori the Israeli call it today– the capital of Galilee at the time, about five miles away from Nazareth, an easy walk for people then? According to one tradition, Mary’s family came from there. For the past decade, archeologists have been uncovering the ruins of this fascinating city.

Sepphoris was a flourishing place in Jesus’ day where, unlike Nazareth, gentiles and Jews lived together. Like other cities it was built on a hill surrounded by fertile valleys; looking east you could see the Mediteranean Sea. The city had a theater that sat 4,500 people, gleaming mansions with sparkling mosaics, streets lined with shops and public buildings. It was a center for tax-collecting and trade.

For sure, Galilee’s ruler, Herod Antipas, had his father’s taste for building. As in Jerusalem, building must have been going on there all the time. Did Joseph, a “builder” according to the gospel, work there? Did he bring his Son along with him? Did people from Nazareth bring their produce to the city to sell to the residents who smiled at the “simple” Nazarenes? Did Jesus see there how proud bureaucrats, like Pilate and Herod,”made their authority felt.” Did he watch the tough Roman legionnaires based there and recognize how futile a fight against them would be?

Sepphoris must have been one of the places, like Jerusalem, where Jesus learned about the world. The two wise teachers who mostly helped him understand what he saw were Mary and Joseph, “simple” people from Nazareth. But there must have been other family members and friends too who brought him up.

Angels didn’t.

The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us it’s not where you go to school, or where you live, or what things you have that’s important. It’s who brings you up?