..feast of the Holy Family..family of Christmas crib; Mary Joseph & child Jesus.. ..a family with all the sharp edges, dismissive words & downright unacceptable behaviour we discover, & indeed cause serious injury within our own holy families.. & having listened in confessional to 4/5mins of anger hurt & betrayal incurred in the rawness of family life, I ask gently “ do you love them?” ..without a second of hesitation, & usually with smile to die for, they say “yes, I love them” “..& do they love you?” & with humility they say “yes, I think so..” “..it is the people we love most who are the people we hurt most”..
“..whoever respects their father is atoning for their sins” ; Lord have mercy “..whoever honours their mother is like someone amassing a fortune” ; Christ have mercy “..my son, my daughter, do not despise your parents in your health & strength..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..in 1984 when I began teaching O Level RS in the College my first class just got started when a boy asked to borrow a pen..went to back to his pal & sat down again..I suspected something else than pen had changed hands so asked him what he had in his hand..”a pen sir” said with some scorn..”in the other hand” I asked, & there was piece of chocolate..”I asked him to stay behind to see me at end” allowing me time to ponder on a punishment & see if there WAS evidence of remorse..at end told him I wouldn’t tolerate deception.. we were studying Marks gospel so I asked him to write out for me for next class in 2days time first chapter..only later did I realise with horror how long it was..expected pleas for clemency from his tutor & housemaster..he came to next class with reams of paper..& it was the making of us as Set 4..he was in good company; read again gospel you have just heard..”Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it” clearly wilfull insubordination..a young human Jesus testing ground & his relationship with his parents ..please don’t make him solely divine..”a man like us in all things but sin” depends how you define sin; you decide how close Jesus came throughout his life to the dividing line.. He, fully divine, taking lifetime learning how to become fully human..& you & I, fully human, taking lifetime learning how to become fully divine..& we meet him halfway down classroom with piece of contraband chocolate in one hand & a copy of the gospel in the other.. welcome to holy family life 29/30 Jan 2018..”why were you looking for me? did you not know I must be busy with my Father’s business?” such blatant cheek & disregard for his anxious parents..a state of crude independence & a cruel dig knife at poor Joseph, reminding him of his role as [always] a foster father..only insight into life of young Jesus & it spills the beans one episode on a continuing journey of learning through mistake realisation remorse & reconciliation..for him then & for us now..holy families life faith work failure breakdown & healing in progress..”it is the people we love most who are the people we hurt most”..the stroppy Jesus wouldn’t have dared speak that way to the temple officials, but to his nearest & dearest there is no mask no pretence..”where are you going? who are you meeting? will x be there? what time will you be home?..keep your phone on..be very careful..& now give me a kiss & enjoy yourself”..at World Meeting of Families in Dublin last summer our own Caroline Dollard launched her new book “seeking God together” a tremendous resource nationally..seeded in part in the fertile soil of our little non descript parish..she talks of Pope Francis’ call to us to develop the “art of accompaniment” & she speaks of appreciative enquiry “when people are affirmed they grow”..one of my Gilling parishioners 30yrs ago had a beloved teenage daughter who would feel she was given third degree before driving off to York for night out & early morning with friends..Mum would say “when you get it come in & give me a kiss” daughter read it as Mum clocking her back in, smelling her breath at same time..her Mum read it differently..a long evening pondering on her daughters safe enjoyment, & a loving anxiety that could only allow her to doze until her beloved came in & kissed her to sleep, whatever the time..& precious gift of being a priest, a foster father, is to be able to quietly explain how the deep love of each for the other can be beautifully read voiced & understood or tragically be misinterpreted..”it is the people we love most who are the people we hurt most”..a quote in Caroline’s book from Pope Francis “the Joy of Love” “to want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone.”with respect & gentleness I would like to replace final word [alone] with “lonely” young on retreat will often ask me “do you ever feel lonely?” I could laugh it off saying how could I be lonely among 55 monks or you among 250 in Yr 11?..I tell them of elderly Sister in convent of 3 in London ; when she gets lonely takes bus to Euston Stn goes into McDonalds buys coffee/bag of chips, sits in window seat watching relating to thousands of travellers; she then takes bus home & puts on her mask again..to be alone & not lonely is gift..alone Gk monos alone derivative for monk..one who leaves family goes off to try to find two people..God & himself; when he arrives finds 55 monks doing same in a family a community..my prayer for each of you in your holy families is to ask you to find some attic alone space each day, even 5mins, & to sit with Mary & treasure the moments of meltdown & hugs that reflect joyfully on words of Pope Francis “love makes each wait for the other with the patience of a craftsman, a patience which comes from God.” patient waitfulness & craftsmanship like that of a carpenter..I read a fine reflection on Joseph as he taught young foster son to work wood..with his hand over Jesus’s, he gently led his hand, guiding the plane across the wood.. “go with the grain” he told him “go with the grain”..a wonderful phrase to adopt in family life..& now for our young disciples a gentle challenge from me..Robert Thompson’s famous trademark on his wood carving is a mouse..if you were to carve an animal on a wood carving which reflected your own families craftsmanship, what animal would you want as your trademark?..you might talk it through at home, in family, pray together about it, & then please let me know.. “the Church will have to initiate everyone into this art of accompaniment, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other”..who better to teach us, as this parish, to live as a family but your families, “icons of the Holy Family”..& I hope next Advent you will all remember to give to each other an Advent calendar of kind you you may well have resisted so far..one with a chocolate behind each window.. [ Holy Family Yr C ; Lk 2;41-52]