Feast of the Holy Family
Right on the heels of Christmas, with the fridge full of leftovers, post Christmas sales in full swing and the prawn shells beginning to smell in the wheelie bin we gather today to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.
I think each one of us can take something away from this feat. Let me tell you a story and I invite you to work out the connection for yourself and the family situation you find yourself in today!
The membership of a once numerous order of monks dwindled over the years, until there was only five monks left in what was once a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of learning and spiritual renewal. Now no one ever seemed to visit the place as the spirit and the inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.
One day, however, a rabbi happened to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how to revitalize themselves and make the monastery once again a spiritual centre. After a few moments the rabbi replied The only thing that I can tell you is that the messiah is one of you! Flabbergasted, the monks thought – impossible.
As the weeks passed the monks reflected upon the rabbi’s words. If the Messiah was among us, who would it be?
Maybe Br Timothy – after all he is the abbot and in his capacity as leader he could be chosen as the Messiah.
It couldn’t be Br Mark – he is so argumentative, but he is usually right.
What about Br Pius – he tends the gardens and feeds the animals – He could possibly nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah.
Surely it could be Br Kevin, he’s studious and learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers.
It couldn’t be Br William – Certainly the Messiah could not be the person who cleaned the toilets, scrubbed the floors and washed the pots and pans – or could he?
Since the monks could not determine which one was the Messiah they began to treat each one as though they were the Messiah. Moreover, just in case he himself might just be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity.
Within a few short weeks the monastery’s occasional visitors were amazed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirit they experienced. They returned again and again and bought new friends along – so people wanted to join them – the experience was that strong.
Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words – “The Messiah is one of you”. How much more would spouses love and cherish one another. How much more might parents value their children, teach them and lovingly attend to their needs. How much more might children respect, honour and appreciate their parents – not for their faults and failings but for who they are and what they try to do.
Today the love shared between the Holy Family offers us both a witness and a challenge. To love one another as they did requires us to look beyond the things that annoy us in one another, beyond their failings and limitations to discover the Christ who lives within each one of us.
Fr Peter Brannelly