Learning How To Love
In this short homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Year A, Father Hanly tells us that family is a place to learn how to love.
Readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A
- First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
- Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21
- Gospel: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
When we think of the Holy Family, we shouldn’t think of perfect people. There’s no such thing as perfect people.
Mother Theresa, the wonderful Mother Theresa, never taught that the family was a place where everyone “loves thy neighbour as thy self.” She was a very down to earth and realistic lady. She would say a family is a place to learn how to love, love the way God loves. He gives us His love so that we might, in turn, reach out to each other with God’s love.
And the first lesson in learning how to love, is learning how to deal with failure, because failure is an integral part of the learning process. In fact, it’s the only way to learn. Those who think they know everything and have never known failure, know nothing, for it is only from out of the pain of failure that we learn the important and deeper lessons of life.
And so God says to us that we owe each other forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness. Jesus came into this world to teach us how to forgive, how to show compassion, how to lift up those who have fallen, and, especially to lift them up at the time of their greatest misfortune and need, remembering always that we too have failed and continue to fail very often.
There is a saying in the Scriptures that the righteous man, the good man, falls seven times a day. God sends His only Son to us, to be with us and stay with us that we might know that God’s forgiveness once given is never taken back. Do not be afraid.
Jesus was rejected by his own, rejected by the religious and secular authorities, and officials of his day, rejected by the Romans, the power elite, rejected by just about everyone, except for a handful of faithful friends, most of whom were poor.
Jesus was mocked by the soldiers, crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross with crowds screaming at him to show himself to be the Messiah.
He was, in fact, bringing healing and salvation not only to them but to the whole world, as he looked up to his Father in heaven and spoke from the midst of his agony these words: ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’
It is then that Jesus becomes our Messiah, not in some grandiose fashion, or surrounded by angels, but when brought to the edge of despair Jesus holds fast to his love for his Father and his belief in the future generations who will follow and learn how to love as he loves and love one another.
And in the midst of the chaos, Jesus has spoken the words from the cross that are to change the whole world: “Father, forgive them.”
Mother Theresa once said, ‘There is only one failure in life and that is: when we fall, we refuse to get up again.’
Jesus reminds us that we are needy, just like little children. We’re in need of love. We’re in need of people. We’re in need of God most of all, and this is the most wonderful lesson of a wonderful Christmas: God has made his home with us, now and forever.
Blessed are the poor, Jesus would say. And blessed are those who know their need for God, and know their need for each other. And it is a terrible thing for us to close our doors on those whom we can help. To do so is to close our hearts on those who can heal us and save us and even turn our lives around, for God works wonders with his love through people who open wide their doors.
This is a wonderful lesson to learn on Holy Family Sunday. Mary and Joseph are always strangers at the door, looking for shelter and a place to give birth to the Child who is the Son of God.
One of my favourite priest friends, who has gone home to God, when they asked him about love, said this: ‘It is in the chaos of learning to love that we are redeemed.’