The flow of our celebrations in these weeks invite us to a place in the middle. Two feasts attract our attention and border out reflections.
On the one hand, we have the celebration of the Holy Family. The intimacy and love of a family attracts our reflection as modeled by the family of Nazareth. With pleasure, we can think of the way in which Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived and learned together. Each had their role and contributed to the holiness of their life together. We can imagine Mary and her careful organizing of what the family required to create a home together. We can imagine Joseph and his serious dedication to his craft that provided the resources for the family. We can imagine Jesus constantly under the care of father or mother and drawing them into one family as children have that ability to do. Yes, the remembrance of the Holy Family can focus our attention inward to the life together of those who care for one another.
Perhaps, it also reminds us of the state of families who are poor. A child comes into this world some distance from close relatives and friends; the family finds shelter in a barn with whatever limited protection that offers; the newborn infant sleeps in a manger and finds warmth in swaddling clothes. For this family, no amenities appear, other than the support and care of one another. As we look inside, we note the blessings and challenges of a Holy Family.
On the other hand, we have the celebration of the Epiphany. Now, our glance gets wider. We see shepherds make their way to the place of the child’s birth at the summons of an angel. We find the magi—people of other ethnic, religious, and racial lines—guided by a star to the place in which the great King enters into this world. They bring respect and universality to the scene. The Epiphany reminds us of this arrival of a wider and welcoming world at the crib of the Savior.
Perhaps, it also reminds us of the fact that people are possessive of their space even when confronted with a young couple about to bring a child into the world. We can be attentive to the influence of a world power such as Rome that controls as well as directs the obedience of an oppressed people. We can open our eyes to the willingness of powerful figures to protect their own status even at the cost of innocent human life. For the holy family, eyes wide open and an awareness of the society in which they live provides the context for viewing the world around them.
And so, the bounding feasts of the Holy Family and the Epiphany turn our attention inside and outside. We look at the blessings of our families, yet we are aware of the needs of so many other families. We recognize the wondrous and generous people of our world, yet we are also aware of the ways in which so many people hurt at the hands of those who have so much. The Christmas season provides a great joy in the midst of a broken world. Our God has come among us as one of us who knows the blessings and challenges of this created order. Our Vincentian hearts can feel both sides of this reality. They can summon us to be of service to our brothers and sisters who bring life as well as suffering to an imperfect world.