'Dear Family in Christ',
Some of you have caught on that I begin pretty much every homily and bulletin with those or similar words. Every year, the Church sets aside the Sunday after Christmas to honour the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In doing so, we are reminded of the simplicity and sacredness of God’s plan for life, love, and revealing the mystery of His very self as Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be family? Theological definitions and reflections abound, but one modern film puts it this way:
“Family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.”
Based on that definition, I hope you’ll bear with me as I share a story that made my Christmas. Names have been changed for the purpose of anonymity, but the rest of this story is true:
After one of our Christmas Masses, I was enjoying greeting many of you at the door. It’s always nice finding out what everyone is doing for Christmas day-who is going where, different traditions, and what the menu will look like. As the line dwindled, I noticed Dana*. Dana is relatively new to Niagara Falls and to our parish, with no family in the area, and in the busyness of Christmas preparations I had entirely forgotten that she would be spending it alone. My heart sank as she approached me… yet her face shone with a beautiful smile! Gesturing to the Schmidt* family behind her, she shared that she had been invited to join them for Christmas dinner. They shared her smile and nodded excitedly at me, and by the grace of God I held it together.
What does it mean to be a parish family? I daresay this story gets at the heart of at least an aspect of it. Our parish is made up of so many different families, with different gifts and needs, abundances and poverty, both material and spiritual. In this family, no one is so poor that they have nothing to give- and no one is so rich that they are without need. The beauty of a parish like ours is that, if we are willing to open our hearts to each other, each of our needs and gifts meet and are met with the opportunity to both give and receive- and it’s not clear which is a bigger blessing.
None of us do this perfectly. It’s tough, because it’s so much easier to simply be individuals, not to be inconvenienced, look out for ourselves, and not rely on anyone else… but on this Feast of the Holy Family, maybe, just maybe, God is calling our parish to live a little more like a family. I invite you to pray about what this might look like for you, and to pray for Father Michael and I, that we would better model and facilitate what it means to be a parish family- where no one gets left behind, or forgotten.
God love you,