The calendar year comes to an end and we gather to celebrate two special feasts in our Church: The Holy Family and that of Mary, the Mother of God. We celebrate the end of another year of pilgrimage in faith, and the beginning of a new year of our lives.
The feast of the Holy Family is a celebration of all families: not perfect families, not constantly serene families… but families just like ours. If we picture the family of Joseph of Nazareth as we have seen them depicted in works of art or statuary, it becomes very difficult to model our family lives around theirs.
They were, in fact, ordinary working people, called to an extraordinary mission. And they were subject to the ordinary failures of miscommunication, disappointments, worries, and disagreements of every family. However, they put their entire future, their entire trust, in the Spirit of God, who not only led them through their lives, but traveled alongside with them on their journey. Theirs was a family of love, respect and honesty, and not without turmoil.
Mary, as the mother of our God, becomes our mother. It is she in whose arms the Babe nestled at birth, and in whose arms the crucified Son lay at the foot of the Cross. "Mary, the Mother of God" is perhaps the most significant of her titles… an ordinary girl called to bring forth the Word of Salvation - to care for Him, to nurture Him, to feed Him with the fruits of this life, so that He could feed others with the gift of Eternal Life.
This is traditionally the time of year for reflection… a time to look back at another year of life-experience and how we dealt with it; a time to measure our progress; and a time of resolve. In the life of the Church it is also a time of "new beginnings." The Season of Advent ushered in the new liturgical year; Christmastide reflects our affirmation of God made flesh, and we now begin the cycle anew.
It is very fitting that, as we move from the old year into the new, we recognize how intimately our lives are bound up with family. We are born into a family and reared in its environment; we move out and usually begin our own families. So many of the significant and Sacramental events of our lives are related to family members... baptisms, First Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, anniversaries, and deaths.
It is in the family that we come to understand identity and continuity. In the loving, supportive environment of parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we come to appreciate our heritage and traditions. We are schooled in fundamental values. And usually, our initiation into the Christian faith is a very basic part of that early experience. It is our faith which will shape our outlook of the coming new year.