Often we make the decisions on our family matters out of social pressures. The pressures of education and job market determine the relationship between the parents and children. Morality, religion and personal development have become secondary to the pressures of careerism. We play according to rules that we ourselves are not any more in control of. What we build up at the neglect of personal growth demoralises life, since there is not enough emotional and moral support from within. We turn negative and become disoriented in our personal relations. We forget our roots of being human and our families turn to a place where people who live under the same roof but emotionally far removed from one another.
Once there was a farmer who was financially well-off, but had no children. He was an object of ridicule among his neighbours. One day he told his wife: “I would like to have a child, even if it happens to be a hedgehog!” To their shock, they really got a son with the prickles of a hedgehog. Anyway, they gave him the name Hans. Due to the prickles on his body, he could not sleep on a proper bed or could not be breastfed. For eight years he lived and grew up in a small corner behind the oven in the kitchen. And his father wished: “If Hans could only die!” But he did not die.
When he knew what went on in his father’s mind, he moved out into a forest and lived there. Two kings happened to wander through the forest, because they had lost their way. He helped them to find their way to their palaces and in turn they promised to offer him whatever that first met them at their entry to their palaces. The pretty young daughters of the kings came first to receive them. So Hans could marry one of the princesses. But he still had the hedgehog-prickles on his body. On the night before the wedding, he arranged four men to remove the prickles and burn them in the fire. For the next day, he appeared like any other handsome young man. He married the princess. His father recognised him and accepted him again, after he narrated the whole story.
This fairy-tale has all the elements that help us to reflect on the condition of our present day family. The longing of the parents to have a child, their disappointment with the child as it grows up, the child’s search for a fitting place for himself, and his waiting for healing and deliverance so that he is accepted back into the society. It is normal that the parents have a set of expectations from children and the children see their own life differently from the way their parents see it. Shattered expectations can lead to shattering consequences. Such disappointments often stand as hindrance to love, mutual understanding and forgiveness, in the absence of which no one could have an authentic family. That is the dilemma of our time.
The readings Heb 11:8.11-12.17-19 and Lk 2:22-40 stress that the ground and the roots of our life lie beyond ourselves and the soceity in which we live. Holding out the example of Abraham, St. Paul shows in his letter to the Colossians, that God is the origin and source of human life. God calls him out of his land, he leads him to a promised land, gives him a child in his old age, gives him back the offer of Isaac and gives him a great and everlasting inheritance. The gospel shows the presentation of the child to God as an acknowledgement of His own gift to them.
Today the Raelians announced the birth of the first baby clone. They would like to avoid by cloning awkward situations like that of the farmer in our story. But it is not the type of birth that matters, but the way a child is treated, loved, accepted or rejected in the family. We still remember Robert Steinhäuser, a student in a Gymnasium in Erfurt, Germany, who shot many students and his teachers, and earlier similar cases in the USA. There are millions of children who grow up like them all around the world. They may be in our own families. These children prove that deep-rooted hurts and painful experiences imprint themselves very deeply in the mind. They search for a place in soceity where they really fit in. They also wait for healing and deliverance. If God is allowed to lead our families, we all live already in His healing and salvation. The question is: What are we ready to do to bring our families once again under the guidance and leadership of God, like that of Abraham and like the Holy Family?