We know surprisingly little about the Holy Family. From what the New Testament tells us, it would be difficult to write the history of that family. And from what we know, it was not always smooth and easy. Jesus' birth was a source of headaches for Joseph, to start with. Then, the next incident reported was the pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old; an incident in which he demonstrated a rather independent spirit for a boy of his age, and Mary and Joseph didn't understand what he was telling them. When Jesus began to preach, members of his family came to seize him and bring him back home, because they thought he had lost his mind. For Mary, there was of course the satisfaction of Cana, but there was also the tragedy of Calvary.
The Gospels are essentially interested with Jesus' public life. They originally started with Jesus' baptism in the Jordan by John, at the age of about thirty. Then, Luke and Matthew added a few traditions about Jesus' birth, and his flight to Egypt. And between those two poles, of all those thirty years or so of family life, we know about nothing. The only thing we know about those thirty years of family life of Jesus is that he ran away... and the laconic mention by Luke that, after running away, he went back with his parents to Nazareth and that he was obedient to them.
The first lesson is that a family is a place of transition, a place of growth, a place out of which we have to grow onto another family or community, and ultimately onto a larger family, the society, the Church.
In his Epistle to the Colossians, Paul enumerates the conditions or virtues necessary for any authentic and harmonious family life, at any level (nuclear family, community, Church, or world): "Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another." Paul seems to take for granted that in a family life, a community life, a social life, we will need patience, we will have plenty of occasion to practice humility and mercy, and that we will eventually have grievances one another. Nothing surprising in all of that. Therefore, he sums up his message by this short imperative: "Forgive as the Lord as forgiven you!"
The Lord said that if we go to the altar to offer a sacrifice and we remember that our brother... (etc.) Well, before going to the altar of the new year, let us be very careful to forgive each other or to forgive anybody else every grievance we may have against them. Let us not enter the new year with an unforgiving heart. Let us make it impossible for us to ever say next year: "So and so did that to me last year". Let us enter the new year with a clean slate on which God can write a new chapter or draw a new painting.
Is it possible? Is it always possible? Are they not things that one cannot forgive? Yes, it is always possible to forgive, because God did forgive us worse things that we will ever have to forgive anybody else.
And how is it possible. Paul, again, has the answer (he always has the answer!): "Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together". God forgave us because he loved us. If we really love, there is nothing we cannot forgive. And if we do forgive what will be the result: peace. "Christ's peace must reign in your hearts", he says. And what is the conclusion of all this? -- Thankfulness. "Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness". All those recommendations of Paul are so simple, so clear, that they do not need any commentary. Only to be lived out.
At the end of a year politicians and businessmen count their points and their results and want to show how good, after all, their year has been. For us, brothers and sisters, let us simply finish this year with our hearts filled of the various sentiments enumerated by Paul: first, love -- unconditional love, and therefore forgiveness, and therefore peace, and therefore, thankfulness!
In a moment we will be untied to all the members of the large family of God through our partaking in the Eucharist. May we find in that sacrament of love the capacity to be as loving and merciful to one another as God is to each one of us.
For further reflection on the theme of the "Family" see the Dom Armandís Chapter talk to the Scourmont Community on the theme: " Vous êtes de la famille de Dieu ".