It can seem somewhat strange that we portray Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the ideal family to be imitated. We have to admit that there is nothing normal about this family: the boy was the Son of God, his mother was a virgin and we last hear about Joseph when Jesus was 12 years old. We do believe that they were loving and faithful people and in the second reading Paul invites us to ‘clothe ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’ The supreme work of our entire lifetime is to develop the capacity to know how to love. Love is a science; love is a discipline; love has to be our main priority every day. We are all naturally inclined to think that everything ‘is all about me’. Overcoming our basic self-centredness entails a willingness to say ‘I’m sorry’, a willingness to admit we are wrong and to ask for forgiveness. This comes with great difficulty for most of us. St Paul also reminds us three times of a basic need to say ‘Thank you’ – as often as possible to everyone and for everything in our lives. The author Ann Voskamp, embarked on a daily discipline of being open to the wonders which surrounded her, finding joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, pain, loss and daily duties. She discovered that where there is wonder there is thanksgiving.
More than anything else, love involves the ability to be present. And that takes work: to really be right here, right now, in front of this person and out of myself enough to feel their feelings instead of just mine. That is heroic for most of us. We can be so trapped in our own feeling that we cannot imagine what the other person is feeling right now. To put ourselves ‘in the other person’s shoes’ is the beginning of love. To make this our art form, our science, our daily decision – for love is a decision, not a feeling – we need to draw upon a love that is much bigger than our own, the love of God. The good news is that eternal and perfect Love is within us and we are already one in Love. Thomas Merton tells us that we just need to start becoming what we already are. All that is absent is awareness.
The gospel ‘yardstick’ of true normality is a life lived in a loving response to God, the source of love. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are rightly the ideal family to be imitated.
Adapted mainly from Richard Rohr’s homilies.