By Fr. Glenn Jones
Ahh … another Christmas filled with joy. Lights and shopping. Carols, cards and creches. Squeals of happy children ripping wrappers. Bellies burgeoning with biscochitos and—for many of us here in New Mexico—with those steaming Christmas tamales. Mmmmmm.
Now … hustle and bustle over, a new year approacheth. Is it a new decade, though? If we began a new year-measuring standard, we wouldn’t cite the date as January 1, 0. Hmmmm. Well … if that’s the biggest conundrum we have this year, we’ll be doing well!
Alas … I fear it will be a year fraught with conundrums—especially the quadrennially-occurring presidential election. By the way … WHY is that on leap years? Is it really necessary to subject us to yet one more day of tormenting political ads and eye-rolling (hopefully non-violent) adversarial harangue? Kind of sadistic, if you ask me! 😉 “Exaggerated” claims here … doctored or out-of-context photos there … promises everywhere. More “spirited” debate in the shallowed halls of legislatures. As the old curse supposedly goes: “May you live in interesting times”. Rip Van Winkle had it good! Melatonin all around!
But … when one reads history, it’s really not widely different from the past. Political rhetoric has always had varying levels of contention. Yet, politicians: learn to slice and dice your opponents’ positions (and not them) with elegance and aplomb, with Ciceronian style! Take a cue from our friends across the pond because, though the House of Commons may seem chaotic, its debates ARE historically often peppered with that bitingly-wry and masterful British wit. So … have mercy on We the People.
But … back to “the fam”. ‘Twas a joy to see those whom we’ve not seen in a while, especially the “young ‘uns” … the future of the family. But now … most of my “little” nieces and nephews are in their … 40s! Eeek! Time waits for no man, so the saying goes (yeah … thanks for the tip).
Now, the family bond is, obviously, one of the strongest of bonds of society, and is society’s very building block. We don’t normally tend to spend thousands of $$$ and seemingly endless hours of travel time going to visit friends, no matter how close of friend they are. But we DO suffer such for family, especially during the holidays. We have that natural desire to be among those with whom we are most comfortable and famili-ar. Yet one of the dangers of family relationships is taking its members for granted. Should we treat those who love us the most with less thoughtfulness just because we know we can, knowing that they’ll love us regardless? That wouldn’t be right, would it?
Now, every post-Christmas weekend we Catholics celebrate as the feast of the Holy Family—that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph—not only to worship Our Lord and to remember two of the greatest of saints, but to also to remind us of the sanctity of them who are the very model of family.
Good ol’ St. Joseph—thoughtful, wise, righteous … unfailingly attentive to God’s will and instruction. No chest-beating braggadocio for him, but rather patient and humble plying of his simple carpenter’s trade to provide, protect and lead his family. Imagine!: to his neighbors Joseph was just a carpenter—a simply workman—of seemingly no special importance, but to Joseph appeared an archangel and was him to whom God entrusted His own Son! This is humility, fidelity and dependability unmatched. Not to even mention that Joseph was “Son of David!” (Matthew 1:20) … the rightful, and yet forgotten, heir of that greatest of Israel’s kings.
Likewise, you fathers may not (and need not) make headlines, but you teach and lead your children towards their eternal reward … to be good and virtuous, or not—a most serious of obligations. For example, one scripture writer is loathingly dismissive of the sons of the priest Eli: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:12) So it is not the material welfare of your children which should be your greatest concern, but their spiritual welfare, for that is something of which every parent will be called to account.
For wives and mothers: Mary is unquestioningly your unexcelled example … faithful, diligent, thoughtful, nurturing, loving, ever maternal … struggling in partnership with her husband and in the nurturing of her child … and yet all in humility. Imagine poor Mary: fleeing with her newborn to exile (Matthew 2), following and supporting her Son in His ministry, rejoicing in her Son’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem only to agonize at the foot of His blood-soaked cross only days later. And yet … ever faithful, ever present … the absolute picture of maternal devotion, come what may. So, dear mothers: find in Mary’s example courage and inspiration, ever renewing your admirable strength and resolve to traverse that difficult and inevitably self-sacrificing—and yet rewarding beyond all others—journey which is motherhood.
Of course, in partnership with the father, a mother has that greatest of tasks to perform: leading her little ones as best she can to eternal salvation by teaching and example. A faithful mother’s unmatchable joy will be to walk her children rejoicingly to the throne of God.
Finally … children: your duty in the family is to love, honor and respect your parents … obeying them ‘til you reach adulthood, but even then, always respect and kindness. Every person is a child of someone, and thus each of our models is none other than Jesus Himself who, though God, subjected Himself to Joseph and Mary and “was obedient to them” in all love and humility (Luke 2:51).
Young ones: showing honor and obedience to parents—and to ALL your elders—unfailingly brings honor to yourself. And so “Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old…The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice.” (Proverbs 23:22-25) And also: “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; and what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (Sirach 7:27-28)
Finally, siblings: as remarkable as it may seem when we’re young, you will eventually become one another’s best friends and faithful supports all of your lives. St. Paul’s words thus become a parent’s entreaty to each of you: “…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit…Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of [the] others.” (Philippians 2:2-4) Nothing pleases parents as much. So, “Put on…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…forgiving each other…And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3:12-14).
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.