There is no such thing as a perfect family. In fact, probably some of the most imperfect groups we will ever experience are families, including our own. Of course, we want the best for our families, we want harmony and cooperation. Achieving this is not easy because family life involves a complicated set of relationships that regularly present us with challenges.
Some mistakenly make family life an all or nothing proposition. Either everyone behaves exactly how we think they should, or family life is a failure. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that family life is not problem free. Mary and Joseph had to travel a long way to present their baby boy in the temple (Luke 2:22-40). Imagine the challenges of traveling on a donkey by way of cold and dusty roads with a newborn. This was not just any child. Mary and Joseph must have been very aware that their son was the major topic of conversation for whole towns. In the temple, the prophet Simeon says the child was destined to be the rise and the fall of many in Israel. He predicts that Mom’s heart would be pierced with a sword of sorrow because of how her son would be treated. How stressful that must have been! With the many challenges they faced, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to do what all families need to do. St. Paul sums up in four words when he says, “Bear with one another (Colossians 3:12-21)”.
Bearing with one another means giving up the fantasy that the perfect family exists. It means when things are not going well, the family is not necessarily falling apart. Most importantly, bearing with one another means remembering that all family members are human beings who make mistakes, misunderstand each other, are sometimes selfish and can be overly sensitive. Family members also deeply want to be loved, are capable of loving, need to be patient and to show patience.
Bearing with one another means when Mom and Dad make a rule, they are not trying to make life miserable for the kids. When the kids have another point of view, it is not an act of rejection. When there are battles, someone has got to make the first move to seek forgiveness or forgive.
The greatest sorrows and deepest joys we experience in life will most likely happen within our families. If we bear with one another like Jesus, Mary and Joseph did, our families, in the joys and sorrows, will surely reflect the love of God. May we all bear with one another in the New Year ahead!
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector