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The Holy Family and Ours

As the new year of 2018 commences we look for ways to make a new beginning.  In a secular sense we might make resolutions, but in a religious or spiritual sense as well, there is certainly much that we can improve on and January is as good a time as any to begin this improvement.

During the recent National Clergy Conference that was held in Lancaster, NY in November of 2017 the clergy of our Church had ample time to discuss the needs of the Church as a whole and in particular the needs of the faithful.  It was decided there that the core building block of human society, the family, is where we should focus not only our attention, but also our prayer and support as the clergy of the P.N.C.C.  As the Future Direction report was given and discussed, it was decided that the year 2018 would be set aside to focus on the family.

Within our liturgical year there are two solemnities which have a primary focus on family.  These are the Solemnity of the Holy Family, which is celebrated in the time after Christmas and the unique solemnity of the Polish National Catholic Church, the Solemnity of the Christian Family on the second Sunday of October.  It is difficult to join these celebrations into a coherent theme as they are so far apart in the year and it is also true that the Solemnity of the Holy Family often gets lost in the many celebrations around the time of Christmas and the New Year.

But of course this speaks to the issue at hand.  While we, even as Christians, might lose sight of the holy by the excitement of the Christmas holiday and also as we often look very selfishly to the New Year’s resolutions that we make for self-improvement, where does the family and its spiritual development fit into this time and into this celebration?

We must begin with the acknowledgment that the family is the building block of all society and in particular our religious connections as well.  The family is a part of creation right from the very beginning.  We read in the book of Genesis: “God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.  God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)  We also read within the book of Genesis how a man and woman are to be joined into a family: “This one, at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh… That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” (Genesis 2:22a, 23b)   We see here that family life, both man and woman together and the bringing forth of children, is an integral part of God’s design, and that family life is to continue with God’s blessing.

And as we know that this basic unit of the family is a primary part of creation there has also always been a larger aspect to family as well.  It is found within the call of Abraham to leave his dwelling and follow the way God leads him.  “The Lord God said to Abraham: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you… All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.” (Genesis 12:1-2a, 3b)  So we see within this reading an extension of the family to one that is based on faith.  We see it explicitly within the designation of the Jewish people speaking of themselves as “children of Abraham.”

Looking now to the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we know that He was born within a family as we are.  The Gospel writers make sure to show us a sample of this family life.  We see the care of Mary and Joseph for the Infant Jesus as they make sure He is safe and warm even when they can’t find lodging in Bethlehem. “While they were there, the time came for her to have her Child, and she gave birth to her firstborn Son.  She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)  We see the great effort of Mary and Joseph to keep their Child safe when the massacre of the infants occurred. “Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’  Joseph rose and took the Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.  He stayed there until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:13b-15a)  We see the worry of Mary and Joseph when Jesus is left behind in the temple at 12 years old.  “Son, why have You done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for You with great anxiety.” (Matthew 2:48b)

We see that Jesus, Mary and Joseph, while certainly in a time and culture that is quite distant from our own, experienced many of the concerns and trials that all families do, to care for their children and each other, to worry that things may go wrong and to work to make sure that the entire family is well, strong and taken-care-of.

Much as in the situation with Abraham, we also know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ extended this family to all faithful Christians when He was preaching.  And in response to this we, as Christians, call each other brothers and sisters in Christ.  We hear within the Gospel of Matthew: “While [Jesus] was still speaking to the crowds, His mother and His brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with Him.  Someone told Him, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with You.’  But He said in reply to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother?  Who are My brothers?’  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers.  For whoever does the will of My Heavenly Father is My brother, and sister, and mother.’” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Now the thing that we must remember is that as this progression happens the original expression of family is not cast away, but rather we see that within this progression we also find the journey that every Christian makes within their spiritual life: from being a part of a family created by God, to be a member of the family of faith, to being a brother or sister of Christ uniting our lives to His.  We do not leave one expression to go on to another, we rather see that our horizon is expanding and it should deepen the love we feel with our families.  And we must work and pray to make sure that each part of this spiritual journey remains strong and supportive to each of us as a loved creation of God, a child of the Almighty Father and a brother or sister of Christ.

In order for this to happen we must strengthen all family ties within our parish communities and local surroundings, starting from the individual families to the entire parish family and even beyond.  It was for this reason that the Polish National Catholic Church originally sought to celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family and it was for this reason that the clergy of the Polish National Catholic Church decided to honor this year as the Year of the Family.  Through these celebrations and the action it spurs, it is hoped that we can help to grow and nurture strong families within our Church this year and beyond.

To that end we need to examine our family life to see if we are being spiritually fed and nurtured.  We can begin by looking at the way in which we live with each other.  Do we make sure that the Sunday and Holy Day celebrations of the Eucharist are an important part of the week for our family?  Do we pray together, even at times when it is inconvenient?  Do we encourage each other, both husbands and wives as well as their children, to practice the Christian virtues of: humility, generosity, chastity (purity), charity (love) temperance (self-control), brotherly love and diligence?  Do we hold each other to the high calling of being a Christian?  Do we honor and respect each other at all times?

If children are ever going to learn these virtues and if we are ever going to keep and strengthen them, they must be practiced and shared within family life.  So my brothers and sisters, let us pray for the families within our congregations and also those within our communities.  But let us also take the next step to help them along.  Encourage young families when they are struggling with their children at Church on Sunday.  Lend a helping hand when you are able.  Compliment them for the effort to make sure their family is worshipping and praying together.

And also make sure that we are all good examples ourselves.  How can we possibly expect others to strengthen their families in faith if we will not live our own faith?  Support and encourage events at Church and in the community where families can participate and be uplifted.  All it takes is a few small things each and every day – prayer, actions and words – to help each other and especially to help families that are so beleaguered today.

Remember to look to the model of the Holy Family, but also remember that each person, each family can be a holy family if we take seriously our faith and look beyond ourselves to help each other, the members of Christ’s family.

 

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Phone: (570) 346-9131
Website: http://www.pncc.org
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