In November 1954, Perry Como recorded and RCA released the popular Christmas song, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”. By now you have heard it on your car radio and in shopping malls thousands of times this year alone!
If you listen closely to the lyrics of this song, you’ll find that they offer a simple and enduring truth: when the time comes to celebrate certain moments and seasons in our lives, we
want to be home. Home usually means our family as well as our town and country. We want to be with the familiar, the comfortable, that place we know, and especially with those who know us, accept us, and love us.
The celebration of Christmas,perhaps more than any other occasion, draws us home. My own childhood memories of Christmas at our home on Percival Street in Dorchester include a flood of images of a big Christmas tree and gifts, along with parents, kids and, of course, a dog in the middle of it all.
With all of that comes the gift of being together, sharing, feeling safe, and being happy. Because it’s so familiar, we can all too often fail to appreciate the gift of family. The very source of our lives and those who formed and cared for us are so much a part of us, that we can overlook our family when counting our blessings.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family, always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. On this feast day, the Church invites us to see in the family of Joseph, Mary, and the Child Jesus the simple beauty and truth that the Son of God was born into a human family – just like yours or mine. This celebration can help each of us to recall how precious the gift of family can be. Though human and fallible, our family, nonetheless, is uniquely ours. Sadly, hurts, mistakes or whatever, can fracture family unity and cause enormous pain and damage.
It’s so astonishing to see how deep and serious the consequences of the breakup of a family can be. Regardless of the circumstances, the reality is that if one member is separated, every member suffers.
The Grace of these days holds the possibility for everyone to act in ways that can strengthen the family. If there is too much distance between you and another in the family, if there are hurts that have lingered too long or anything else that has damaged your family relationships, why not seize this day and extend an olive branch? Why wait? What benefit could there be in delaying?
Let’s take the time to reflect and ask ourselves: “what can I do today to strengthen my family?” What is it that a family member might need that I could give that would bring us closer together? Let’s not delay because we are looking for the precisely correct moment. More often than not, the right time never comes!
In all ways, this is a day to be grateful for the gift of our families – imperfect as they may be! This is the day to see that family is often diminished by the popular culture in both subtle and aggressive ways. Let us choose not to be complacent for our own sakes. We, our Parish, our community, our city, our nation, and our world are only as strong as the family unit.
On this day, we remember that Jesus, Himself, belonged to a human family and in that we find hope. In this Christmas season, as the canned Christmas music fades away, let us be grateful in every possible way for our families and pray for the grace to heal what is broken and strengthen whatever may be weak, for our sake and the sake of our world.