A very merry Christmas to each of you. At the Christmas vigil, I reminded everyone that Christmas isn’t about presents and candy canes and Christmas trees, but about God, out of immense love, visiting his people, reconciling them, healing them, and saving them. Christmas is about a new beginning for us, that has its end in sainthood. You and I are called to be Saints of the Church–don’t give up that goal. Today’s Gospel gives us the instructions on how to make it so. It begins with the Holy Family–our model and example of holiness in just three steps.
The Gospel tells us “Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, according to the festival custom.” If we want to be a holy family we need to get onboard with the Church’s calendar, and make the church, it’s celebrations, its festas, its holy days, a part of our calendar. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph–all of them–made God and their religious traditions first in their life. We should too…CCD, Wednesday Mass, RCIA, the Assumption Festa, the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry, Vacation Bible School, Reconciliation, ARMEE, Guest Speakers, and more. These are the communities’ gatherings. We should be there. Make them first in our life. Make God’s people a priority.
Secondly, make it a family affair. You noticed that when Jesus was not found, Mary and Joseph “looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,” and only then returned to Jerusalem. It wasn’t just the Holy Family that went to Jerusalem, all of them went to Jerusalem! Aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and friends. My wife and kids get ready, we go to church, but I often don’t encourage enough or invite others to join us, and I should. I need to make it a point to extend beyond my immediate family to invite relatives and acquaintances to Mass, Fish Frys, and celebrations. They can come or not come–that’s up to them–but shouldn’t we at the very least invite or encourage them to join us?
Finally, it’s okay, as we search for Jesus throughout our lives not to understand everything. Mary and Joseph were looking for Jesus with great anxiety, nd when they found him he just says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I mean, you know, eeesh. Relax. Haha. Mary probably wanted to ring his holy little neck. But the scriptures say, “They did not understand what he said to them…and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” The truth is that as we also seek Jesus in our life, not everything is going to make sense all the time. And that’s okay. When we are confused, anxious, and afraid, we continue to look for our Lord, hear his words, and ponder them in our heart.
Quoting St. Athanasius, the Catechism teaches in paragraph 460, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” That’s what Christmas is all about–but it doesn’t just happen. We commit ourselves to the community of faith and make its celebrations first place on our calendar. We not only make God first place, we evangelize family and friends–and share this good news of salvation with others. And finally, it doesn’t all have to make sense all the time. We serve a God of inexhaustible mysteries. We will not always have all the answers, but we need to always seek the lord and ponder the Lord’s words in our heart.
That’s the path to holiness and sainthood: make God first, invite others, and let the words of our Lord marinate in our heart–what an exciting thing when they make it up to our head…when things make sense, but they won’t always, and that’s okay. Remain faithful to God as you advance in wisdom and age. Merry Christmas.