Holy Family Today is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The natural tendency is to try to compare our families to the Holy Family and if we do that we usually end up disappointed in our own family. In my own extended family we have alcoholism, divorce, interracial marriage, inter-faith marriage, homosexuality, arrests, cancer, diabetes, domestic abuse and baptized and confirmed Catholics who no longer go to church. In short, my family is not how I wish my family was. But if we’re honest, we are not the people we wish we were either. If we’re honest with ourselves, our hearts are not pure; our hearts are filled with need and greed as much as with love and grace; and we wrestle with our hearts all the time. The wrestling is who we are. How we wrestle is who we are. What we want our lives to be, or what we wish our families were, is never what we truly are. Not yet. Maybe that’s why we have a restlessness in our souls driving us toward what might be. St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thy-self, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Maybe it’s because of that restlessness that we can compare ourselves to the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph tell us a lot about what makes a family holy. Mary is an unwed mother, because of the order from Caesar, she and Joseph are required to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. (80 miles -33 hours) Then Mary gives birth in a stable crawling with dangerous vermin and foul odors and they place Jesus in a feeding trough. 8 days later they have to walk for 2 hours to the Temple in Jerusalem for the circumcision. Then back to Bethlehem, back to the Temple 32 days later for the Presentation, then back to Bethlehem. Then Herod orders the killing of all male children 2 years old and younger so Mary and Joseph walk to Egypt, about a 40 mile walk taking over two days to arrive. Mary and Joseph must have been sick with fear and anxiety. Their lives were hard, and humble, but through it all, they obeyed God, and that’s the point of today’s feast. What makes a family holy is its willingness to surrender to the purposes of God – just like Mary and Joseph did. We tend to want to blame or make people feel guilty for all of those things in our families that we don’t think measure up to what people should be doing with their lives – to what we think is holy. But in today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient with one another, and above all, to love one another. Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient – and finally much more effective.