I laugh to myself each time people make an effort to present their family as the most perfect one, as if there is anything like a perfect family. We all have the temptation to deny or repress or even spiritualize the pains and brokenness we experience in our families. At most, we wish our families were like the families of Johnson, Sandra or Diego! But it is only a wish and not reality, for every family is a mix of grace and pain and brokenness. The reason is because human beings are already broken through original sin, but we became God’s children by grace in Jesus Christ. This mixture in each of us, of grace and pain, contentment and discontent, satisfaction and dissatisfaction are completely found in every family. We cannot be ashamed of the pain, brokenness, betrayal, laziness, greed, disgruntled arrogance we find in our families. For, side by side these dark and discouraging elements, are the elements of light and graciousness: the times we laugh and tell stories together; those times we unite in love and bear each other’s burden; times we hurt and forgive each other; those times we let go of our selfish inclination and allow love to win over and over again; the times we reach out to each other; the times we overcome the dark elements that constantly try to encroach on the sacred and gracious space that holds families together in love.

That is why we do not celebrate the feast of “the perfect family” but that of the “Holy Family.” The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus isn’t perfect for they have their own share of human pains. But they are holy because they kept God at the center of their family. It is the centrality of God that saw them through painful and desolate moments. They never let the dark elements overcome or sadden their spirit as to lose their focus on God. From the time Mary was betrothed to Joseph, there were problems: the sudden change of plans, the exile of the new family to another country for fear of being killed, the early death of Joseph, the persecution and crucifixion of Jesus, the uncertainties Mary lived and the lonely moments without her husband and only child! Yet, they tried to find God’s purpose through these trials. They didn’t dwell on “how it should have been”; they dwelt on “what is” and could see and follow God’s directions.

The Holy family is a model family because they kept God at the center of their family. The problem of the modern family is that God is completely exiled. And even when He is invoked, it is often to stamp the family’s selfish agenda, and not for worship and surrender. We need to return to God, for only He can heal our many pains and brokenness. May this feast encourage us and return our families to God, our source of life and love. Amen