AS ONE WHO GATHERS TREASURES FOR HEAVEN!
Feast of the Holy Family(A)
December 26, 2010
Readings: Si 3:2-6.12-14 / Col 3:12-21 / Mt 2:13-15.19-23
Yesterday, Christmas Day, I spoke about an eclipse much like the lunar eclipse that people stayed up late for last week, mostly under the North American skies. I referred to what spiritual writers spoke of a whole lot over the last decade – the eclipse of God in the mainstream culture of postmodernity. God is effectively shunted aside by popular culture, the voice of His Church effectively muffled by the onrush of the postmodern forces of individualism, hedonism, and minimalism that Matthew Kelly wrote about so well in his book “Rediscovering Catholicism.”
All three forces are formidable, to be sure. All three are real threats to a culture that was once a mainstay of people’s social and individual lives. For what was once Christian Europe, for example, the liturgical year was what shaped people’s lives, what gave it rhythm, and what directed the daily events of people for centuries.
But all this is gone … ravaged by the forces of modernity – and now – postmodernity!
I dare not talk about which is the worst among the three in the list of Matthew Kelly. But I do venture to say that of the three, individualism seems to be the trend that hits right at the jugular of Christian family living, what effectively not only shunts aside, nor simply muffle the voice – and influence of – the Christian family, but also renders it almost powerless to propel any meaningful and lasting change to the course of society as a whole – all over the world!
Just 15 or 20 years ago, less than the number of years I have been a priest, families used to go to Christmas Day Mass together. Mother, Father, and grown-up and growing children in tow, would dutifully, solemnly, and, I must add, joyfully, do their Christmas morning rituals and worship as one, big, happy family in their parish Church. Today, mothers and fathers would do their duty first thing in the morning. Their teen-age sons and daughters presumably have gone the night before, with their friends, or would go to the evening Masses, not in the parish Church, mind you, but in the many masses that take place now in shopping malls all over the country!
Togetherness has gone the way of the extinct dodo bird! In its place is the ubiquitous individualism that puts the individual person at the center of everything that humans do on a day-to-day basis. The culture of fast-food (courtesy of microwave ovens!), the sub-culture of texting and digital personal entertainment via 3G or higher generation phones that are more than just phones, have all conspired to make the individual person feel – and behave – like he or she does not need anybody else. Institutions have effectively lost their power to influence their thought patterns, value systems, and behavior clusters.
This is the bad news. This is the horizon of human existence in the here and the now. This is the situation that Bishop Anthony Bloom wrote about many decades ago – a life like as if there were only two dimensions – the here and the now, where the hereafter no longer captivates the fancy of the young, the fearless, and the lonesome. Where personal data management and information systems, can be made to fit tiny electronic gizmos that are just bigger than one’s wallet; where one’s survival can be assured by the flick a switch or the push of very small buttons that one can push at will even without looking, the need to do things together effectively goes out the window.
But God’s horizon, that we hear about now in the readings, beckons all of us to take a second look at the reality we are immersed in. For such is the whole message of Christmas. Christmas is all about God coming and God staying. It is all about a God becoming like unto us; a God becoming man so that man might become more than just remaining helplessly and even hopelessly imprisoned in his own self-made walls of individualism, minimalism, and hedonism.
Families are no better off now that each one can fix his or her own meals, at his or her own pace and time – and even – place! Families are no better off now that children can decide for themselves the right thing to do, that even minors can have the right to decide to abort unwanted teen-age pregnancies without the permission or knowledge of their clueless parents!
Families are no better off now that the aged (read: old “yucky” grandparents) can no longer have any say on how to discipline – or at the very least – “educate” their beloved grandchildren who have suddenly grown bigger than their breeches, almost overnight!
Families are no better off now that no one, as in no one, can anymore tell young people how to distinguish between right and wrong, between the convenient and the honorable course of action, and between the self-centered and altruistic course of action at any given time. No … individualism, minimalism and hedonism have long held sway, and have long kept the young under their spell.
But God’s horizon tells the Church never to give up even what appears to be a losing battle. God’s horizon keeps on beckoning us, men and women of good will, to put up a gallant fight and keep up a stiff resistance to the forces of individualism, minimalism, and hedonism.
Today is one such occasion. Today is one such “teachable moment,” a privileged moment of evangelization. And as a priest, I would like to call you to task. Yes … you! I would like to remind you that evangelization is not mine alone, but yours and mine to do. And the family that needs most to be the focus of evangelization cannot be reached if the Church does not co-opt you, if the Church does not call each one of you to task, and if you don’t allow yourselves to be taught precious lessons by the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!
We must do a fusion of horizons. We must get up and gather the scattered pieces of our societal lives. We must become family again. Humpty Dumpty must pick up the scattered egg shell pieces and make himself whole again.
Life can be more like we are Humpty Dumpty’s most times. Everything is broken and tattered courtesy of individualism, minimalism, and hedonism. Everything seems in disarray.
But no! Christmas is about broken humanity getting a boost because God chose to be broken and become finite like us, so as to make us whole again. And if family reunions take place and we are able to make them happen during Christmas time, it is because deep inside, we all know, that God has the power to heal brokenness, that God gives us the graces we need to make more than just Humpty Dumptys to be whole once again. That we, on account of Christ’s birth, are now empowered to work together to make the world a better place of everyone … and that this can only happen if we start with the family, as God wants it, as God wills it, as God will do eventually and definitively, with a little help from each of us!
How about giving God a hand? Now. Here. The "thereafter" is assuredly ours to get ... for "he who honors mother (and father) is like one who gathers treasures for heaven!"