Summary: exhortation on family values as well as refelction on the Holy family of Nazareth.
The Chapel of Dismas The Repentant
A place where we know that the church of Jesus is an evolving, transforming and liberating clinic
for sinners and not a museum for the self righteous
AA 5/38-40 Lk.23 42-44
The family is the barometer by which we can gauge the health of our faith community and society in general. The family is designed to be a community of love with the fundamental mission to be a catalyst of love in society. Familial love has three distinct tasks; to heal the wounds and scars of the soul, to sustain each other in times of trials and tribulations and to facilitate emotional and spiritual growth. The family is an institution created by God and sanctified by the Savior In fact it is the very first institution that was hallowed by the Liberator. By submitting himself to the love and guidance of Mary and Joseph, Our Lord and Liberator consecrated the sacred household in Nazareth and enabled it to become an eternal example of conjugal love, parental wisdom and domestic holiness.
We who bear the precious name of Christian must cherish and strive to nourish the family. We must initiate this process by working on our own families. We must examine, cultivate and enhance both our families of origin and our families of commitment. This exhortation to focus on the family has not only spiritual but also sociological implications. In fact the very existence of our society is contingent upon our willingness to preserve the family and to facilitate authentic scriptural based family values
There are historians and sociologist who contends that throughout recorded history the collapse of every civilization was precipitated by a decline in family values. If this contention is valid and if we believe that statistics are compelling indicators of current trends than we have reason to fret about the health and durability of our existing civilization. Current statistics indicate that 50% of marriages end in divorce. In our society the pain of adultery and the dangers of promiscuity are consistently minimized. The abuse, neglect and exploitation of our children shamefully increase every year. Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportion. Teenage and extramarital pregnancies remain pervasive. The state sanction holocaust of abortions, which justified the extermination of an entire class of our citizens, continues to contaminate the very soul of our nation. One evangelist speculated that if God does not punish 21st century America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. In light of these frightening statistics, it is clear that Americans in general and Christians in particular must address and examine these issues of family values.
One of the greatest myths of our age is that there is such an entity as an ideal functional family. Not true. I believe that the most functional aspect of any family is that God’s divine presence, example and grace is there to bless and adjust that which is made dysfunctional by our human failing, agendas and deceptions. The scriptures remind us that Jesus grew up in a home that knew sorrow as well as holiness and joy. The family of Nazareth is far from ideal. It was initiated by a pre-marital pregnancy. I am certain that proclaiming that their pregnancy came about through divine intervention was probably no more credible in rural Nazareth than it would be in any of our villages or municipalities. The scriptures tell us that the Holy Family became homeless refugees due to the oppressive policies and actions of the ruling government. We are told that they had to make a five-day journey through the North African desert, a desert that proved to be a challenge for every army from Alexander the Great to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Imagine how difficult it was for this humble immigrant family. Living the lifestyle of a rural villager in the hills of Nazareth would have had its share of hardships. They dealt with poverty, empty stomachs, deprivation and discomfort. They were overtaxed and exploited by an oppressive occupying government. God did not spare them from pain and turmoil but he gave them the strength of character to bear the pain. Can we expect anything different? Therefore we can look to the holy family of Nazareth in those times when we experience domestic sorrow or turmoil.
Let us look at the members of this Nazarene Family that was sanctified by the presence of the Liberator. Let us begin with Joseph, a skilled industrious craftsman who dedicated himself to the care, protection and love of his family. The scriptures tell us that he did what he had to do to protect his family from all external threats. It was this pious Jew who taught the torah, prophets and Jewish rituals to Him who was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. It was this skilled craftsman who taught a marketable trade to the Liberator of the World. It was this righteous man who gave his child the name by which we are all saved. Joseph accepted the awesome responsibility to protect and provided for Him who was the Lord of the Universe.