Each day gives us a moment to contemplate our families and what we really want them to be… to ask the blessing of God who has brought us together and appointed each one of us to be in this family.
Referencing our religious roots … in Jesus’ day… each member of the family did something to produce food, practically the only industry. Carpenters like Joseph would have spent as much, if not more, time building or repairing farming implements. Jesus would have learned his father’s trade. Jewish society was a lot simpler than anything we know. From the moment they were physically able, children worked. The men ploughed and planted, made repairs, shepherded the flocks and whatever else was needed. Boys stayed with the men learning the crafts and trades of their fathers and other men in the family. Girls stayed with the women learning how to turn wool into cloth and grain into flour.
In Jesus day, people lived in very small dwellings in extended family groups. They survived only by recognizing that their survival depended upon each other. They lived in the same rooms, ate and worked together, prayed together. It was the values of their religion that created their strongest bonds. Except for daughters who married, few left the home.
Our scriptures and church teaching emphasize the need for exemplary behavior on each our part in order to survive. This call to proper daily behavior is a Call rooted in faith. A strong family relies on its faith to guide and direct it.
A family is a living, breathing organism. Members of the family live off each other; they cope, assist each other and aggravate each other. They make the best of a situation; they invest in it, get to like it, maybe even need it. Sometimes families live with situations they shouldn’t; and make bad human investments; and learn to tolerate unlikable things.
Families must be flexible, but within limits. Nothing is ever what it used to be, nor is it entirely different. Each member needs room to grow. Families need to expect change and crises as a way of life. Our Church teaches that the purposes of marriage are mutual love and raising children. Love is always stretched. We have to discover new ways to express old love or loved ones begin to feel taken for granted. And children are naturally bundles of constant change. This makes the family a change agent, a growth industry!
Sometimes, families need to face the truth, to avoid a future catastrophe by bearing a present pain or embarrassment. We need to allow ourselves to be in trouble. If Mary was found a pregnant teen and Jesus was a runaway teen then we are allowed a scandal or two in the family. A good rule in family life – all life – is to play the problem where it lies. We almost always make it worse by trying to improve on our lie.
And, of course, families, like individuals, live on appreciation, without which even the best arrangements fall apart. Because the family is not an institution; it is an occasion if not an unfolding drama of love.
We worry about our families. We desire our children to have the best influences, the best education and a reasonable walk through adult life free of trauma and pain if at all possible. We want our families to be wrapped in the blessings of God. These are good things to ask for. For these reasons we fall to our knees asking God to keep us in His care.•
Bishop Joseph N. Perry