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This Most Unholy Family

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family for us Catholics, a time to reflect on how the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus can serve as a model for all of us in family life. Our pastor gave an excellent sermon, reminding us that despite the fact that the Holy Family is made up of a saint, a woman with no sin, and God Himself, they faced challenges and hardships.

And then there is...us. This most unholy family. The swampy mess. This everybody-slow-down-at-look-at-the-accident family. Our energy-sucking, money-chewing, would-SOME-body-PLEASE-let-the-damn-dog-out family. This most unholy family.

We don't look much like Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Except when we do. We pray, even when it's difficult. We forgive, even when our hearts are still hard. We laugh at stupid things that only our family laughs at. We know things are okay when Dad makes goulash or Mom knits something just for you. Life keeps punching us, and we bob and weave. Occasionally, we take one on the nose and get knocked to the canvas, but there are half a dozen people in the corner yelling for us to get up. This most unholy family, trying desperately to be holy. And it is in the trying that saints are made.

The Holy Family did not have it easy. Things were very messy for them. Jesus was born in a filthy barn, surrounded by mud and manure. People wanted Him dead almost immediately. The family had to flee to Egypt - Egypt, for crying out loud. For a Jewish family to flee to Egypt, where the Jews had been captive for generations...well, you know things were bad. A place where Jews weren't welcome, and they had no support.

When we think about the Holy Family, we are very tempted to compare our own most unholy family, get discouraged, and think we'll never measure up. (Here's a hint: we won't. Remember, they had Jesus right there.) But we are closer to them than we think. They knew hurt and struggle and pain and fear and uncertainty. They know all that we know in our families. And they held firm. They held it together. They prayed.

And so must we. Even in our most unholy family.

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