Family In Its Many Facets
Families come in many shapes and sizes. It’s something of a cliché to say that, but it’s true. We are each part of a family. Some are born into the family in which they grow up. Others are chosen and adopted into a family. Some are sheltered and loved by a family into which they were not originally born. But families are an essential part of the healthy development of any human being.
And about that many shapes and sizes part – there’s a lot of variation there too.
In some cultures, only one’s father’s side of the family are considered to be relatives. In others, it’s mother’s side. In a few (our own included), both sides of the family are relatives.
Then there are the “fictive kin” – the folks with whom relationships are established by choice of adults in the life of a child, or later by the individuals themselves. Godparents are fictive kin, for example, considered to be sharers in the responsibility of raising the child.
There are folks to whom we give kinship titles simply because they are older adults in our community or the network of friends of our relatives. We had several older women whom we called Grandma when I was growing up. One was the mother of an uncle by marriage. Another was the mother of friends who generously shared her love with us too. In some cultures, adult men and women are addressed as Uncle or Aunt.
And then there are the families that grow together in close friendship through many years spent together. We shared our lives with another family as children. Our parents became very close friends over the years. We traveled to see each other often and spent Thanksgiving together nearly every year. (The roads were too dangerous for regular travel again until February or March after that weekend.) When they moved to our community, we shared meals and time together at least a couple of times a week. We are still fond of each other and enjoy our time together.
These thoughts come to mind as we celebrate the Holy Family. Jesus was born into a family. When Joseph accepted Mary as his wife, he became the legal and social father of Jesus. How the conception of Jesus occurred didn’t matter. Joseph became Jesus’ father, responsible for loving him, teaching him, raising him to be a good man. Joseph did a fantastic job of being a father, just as Mary did a marvelous job of being a mother.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not an isolated family. They lived, loved, and grew together within a community of other people in their village. This foundation prepared Jesus to go out when the time came and share the news that each of us is loved as a child by the Creator of all. We are so loved that we are to call that creator Dad/Daddy/Papa/Father. The term he used is Abba and is used by children to this day to speak to their fathers.
On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us rejoice in the gift of family and pray that in our lives we too will grow in wisdom, age, and grace through our days spent in ordinary activities and the special times that we share. May we each become part of a Holy Family too, dancing our way into eternity.
Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family