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Dec. 27, 2020 - Feast of Holy Family

Our Family Is Worth It

By Fr. Hao Dinh

Before the holiday season this year, public health officers were pleading with the public, “Please stay home, if you want your loved ones to be alive next Christmas.”

Despite that warning and the risks of coronavirus infection, over 85 million Americans travel to see their family these days, including more than 5 million people who passed through airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday.

On December 24, Jennifer Brownlee, a 34-year-old fisherwoman from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, flew to Oregon to see her mother, who just lost a leg. She said, “My mom’s worth it. She needs my help.”

Other people would like to spend time these days with their frail elderly parents, who do not have many holy seasons left. Or they are simply worn out by lockdowns and just want to connect with their family, to support one another at the end of a tough year.

It is fitting that we celebrate the Holy Family when many people enjoy time with their family. It is not without reason that after focusing on the birth of Jesus, we zoom out to contemplate the Holy Family within the Octave (eight days) of Christmas. Jesus was born into a culture that regarded raising a family as a sacred duty, family life as a training ground for the Jewish way of life, and being responsible for one another in the family as a way of honoring God.

The Holy Family of Nazareth’s participation in the rite of purification in the temple shows us that they were devout Jews, willing to observe what was mandated by their laws and customs.  They also took seriously the Jewish faith and way of life that were embraced by their ancestors.

In family life, children inherit beliefs and values handed on to them from previous generations, and they may be inspired by their parents’ career paths. In our interaction in a family, we come to see ourselves as individuals, we learn to love and to forgive, to trust and to share, to be honest and responsible.

Eventually, we leave home and live independently or start a family. Today, by the time they are in their mid-twenties, most Americans live hundreds of miles away from their original family. They are left out of certain family events and feel homesick if they are unable to be with their family during the holidays.

Unfortunately, when we have our loved ones with us, or near us, we tend to take it for granted. It’s easy to let work or other things become our priority, spending less and less time with each other.

Despite all the challenges we experience during this pandemic, its restrictions slowed down our fast-paced lives and helped us be more attentive to life itself and where it is nurtured and safeguarded: home.

Today, the feast of the Holy Family, let us look again at our family and life with our loved ones. It’s more valuable than we may realize, even if it’s a family with tensions and conflicts.

Jesus spent 30 years of his life with his family. It was not worthless. For our salvation, he was born, he grew up, he lived in a family for 30 years, then he was out and about, preaching, healing, and he finally went through his passion, death, and resurrection. His entire life, including 30 years with his family, was for our salvation.

Our Christmas celebration is about the Holy Infant, and also about his relationship to his family, and to the entire human family (that the feast of Epiphany next week celebrates).

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