Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the Holy Family and two things they teach us about faith and family.  How we live with our family indicates how religious we are.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Christmas, Feast of the Mother of God and the Eighth Day of Christmas. Please read Luke 2:16-40

 

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/1/2012The 2nd Sunday of Christmas and the Feast of the Holy Mother of God.

Please pause this audio and read Luke 2:16-40.

Finally, the exchange of gifts is out of the way.  Santa is put to bed for another year (Thank God).  We have dispensed with being with the family members we love, hate and are obligated to see.  Now, let’s get on with it!  Usually, the Sunday for which I am giving this reflection is one of the worst of the year in attendance at Churches.  I think it is because of the feeling I have just described.  It is the “Thank-the-Lord-it-is-over!” syndrome.
Yet, for Mary and Joseph, it is not over.  They are pious people.  Their religion is not just for the celebratory times, it is for the daily living of life.  Eight days after giving birth to a son, the initial seven days of purification for the mother are done and she can take her son to the Temple to be circumcised.  Joseph and Mary will do this because the Law of Moses in Genesis says that Jesus’ circumcision will make him a part of the Covenant between God and Abraham.
They will offer two doves for the purification rite for mom and offer the son to be purified because he is the first-born.  They do this because in Exodus it tells us that the first born must be purified and offered to the Lord in remembrance of how the Lord delivered the first-born in Egypt when the Passover came.
There are two things about this passage that are striking.  The first is that Mary and Joseph show us that religion is an everyday experience, they live out their religion.  The second is that religious formation begins in the home, not the Church.  Every home must be a little church.
I have told this next story to Bible Study groups, but I will tell you, too.  When my oldest son Caleb was about one and a half and his sister Hannah was an infant, there was a period of time I would bring the children to church with me in the morning.
One year, for three successive Saturday nights we had about six inches of snow at a Church where I was the pastor.  I would lug my brief case, baby carrier with child and diaper bag up the thirty steps to the door of the church, through the yet to be cleared snow.  I would offer Caleb an available finger.
On the last Sunday morning after another six inches of snow, I was at the top of the steps and had flung open the door enough to throw my body in front of it to keep it open when I heard it.  “Oh, Pastor!” called a young couple of the church who had one daughter about Caleb’s age.  They said, “Oh, Pastor,” as I stood in the cold juggling my load, “we are sorry that we haven’t been church the last couple of Sundays, but with the snow and having to get the little one ready, we figured it just wasn’t ‘do-able,” as I stood with an antsy eighteen month old, a baby with blanket draped over her, a sermon inside of my cumbersome briefcase and an heavy wooden door up against my back.  I realized then that discretion was the better part of valor.
This couple was doing what has become increasingly popular.  They have decided that family is a reason to opt out of living our religious obligations every day.  I often heard, “Pastor, because we’re getting married Saturday, we won’t be at Church.”  Or, “I’ve got family coming in.”  Or, any number of familial ordered reasons.
My intent is not to scold anyone.  My point is that some of the most wonderful moments in life were made even better because I continued to celebrate my faith through them.  There was nothing like sitting with my less-than-twenty-four-hour-new wife in worship on the Sunday after our wedding.  We deliberately picked a flight time to New England so that we could worship with our Church family to celebrate the fact that we were now married.  I will always remember sitting next to her and thinking that “this was how it was meant to be.”
Mary and Joseph had three kings, wise-men, shepherds and various other peoples come and bow down before their little child.  They had people all over the place declaring the greatness of their child, not to mention the angels that appeared to Mary and Joseph before his birth.  Through it all, they kept on living out their faith and observing the obligations of their faith.
I could see it today if the savior was born to a pious girl of the 21st Century in America!  She would tell her priest, “Sorry, Father, we can’t make it to Church this Sabbath because we have just been so loaded with all these people from out of town who’ve come to visit our little savior.”
Convenience is not everything my friends.  In fact, it is great inconvenience sometimes to do things that keep our families together and keep our children faithful.  The first responsibility of a parent of a child who has been baptized is to fully expose them to the life of faith so that they will claim that faith on their own.  We cannot do that unless religion is an everyday affair in which we include our children.  This is the second important thing that this passage teaches us: religious instruction begins at home.
There is this great scene in the movie A Christmas Story about a kid who grew up in Hammond in the 1950s.  His dad had the foulest mouth in the neighborhood.  The movie recounts many scenes where they have covered up his words, but the idea that he is cussing up a storm is clearly evident.  At one point in the movie, the son is helping the irate father change a flat tire.  He accidentally knocks the lug nuts from the tire into oblivion in the snow covered roadside.  In his disgust with himself, the son uses a choice word from the pantheon of cuss words to which he had been exposed.  When he says it, the first thing that the parents ask him is, “Where did you learn that?” Well, hello!
Joseph and Mary are taking their child and observing the reality of their faith with him.  He is not a pass from religious participation; he is now a student of how faith is lived out in their home.  Religious formation occurs best when children see their parents live out their faith in their actions.  If we are faithful, the chances are they will be faithful.  We have to stay the course.
One of the things that Robbie Castleman, in her book Parenting in the Pews, points out is that her children were not allowed to sit with the other teen agers during worship when they reached the teen years.  She writes, “Paying attention in worship is foundational to training children in the pew.  Giving attention to our children during worship time is essential.  It is very important that parents and children sit together during worship.”  She goes on, “During the senior high years…training is increasingly transformed into companionship….It is important for parents to be a part of a teenager’s reflections of faith and truth.”
We will see this transition from training to companionship later on when Jesus is brought to the Temple when he is twelve years old, as is prescribed by the Law.  He will be tutored and trained by teachers of the Law on top of the sure foundation laid by his parents’ active and vital faith.  His parents made sure he was circumcised.  His parents made sure he observed all the requirements of the Law.  The foundation of faith begins at home.
As Christian parents and grandparents we can simply respond to bad behavior by saying, “We are Christians.  Christians don’t do those kinds of things in Mass.”  Or, “you have been baptized; baptized people live their lives for God, not themselves.”  The instruction is not that hard, it is the living that takes more work.
So, my friends, Mary and Joseph serve as great examples of religious parenthood.  They show us that religion is not something that we “do” along with all the other things we do.  Religion is something that we live every day.  Even more importantly, whether single or married with children, religion is something that we live with our families so that the faith will be passed on from generation to generation.
I invite you to include your families even more than you are now in your religious life.  I would like you to invite your inactive family members to church with you, it will be a blessing.  Amen?  Amen.

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