Our guest blogger today is Deacon John Coe. He was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church on June 7, 2008 in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. Currently assigned to Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church in Fort Worth, Texas.Retired as Consul from the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State after 20 years of service.Deacon JohnRetired from U.S. Navy with the rank of Commander.Married 35 years to Luisa Veronica, with three sons.============

Can the Holy Family still teach us anything about what a family should be?  We have always pointed to them as an example of a model family.  But as we look at the plaster statues of father, mother and child placed in a manger, is there still a lesson for the many forms of family we actually experience in our lives?

If all we say about families is they consist of a man, a woman, and their natural child or children, I think we will be leaving a lot of people out.  And the one thing we never want to do in a church that calls itself universal is to leave people out.

Let’s take a closer look at the Holy Family.  It includes Joseph, who is a foster parent.  So perhaps some people would say this family is less than ideal.  And in fact, we know Joseph did something really courageous when he trusted God, and cancelled his plans to divorce Mary.  What must the neighbors have thought?  Mary was pregnant before she even lived with Joseph.  Joseph did this because he loved God, and he loved Mary and the child Jesus.  So, what Joseph shows us in this non-traditional family is the most important element in forming family is love.

Jesus was not the typical child either.  Oh yeah, he was fully human, that’s true.  He was like us in every way but sin.  So completely like us that those swaddling clothes had to be changed on a regular basis.  Otherwise, that manger was going to start smelling worse than a barn.  We forget about that sort of stuff, I guess.  He also was not conceived in the normal way.  As the angel told Mary: “With God, all things are possible!”

Jesus was also an only child.  That wasn’t your typical Jewish family in first century Palestine.  And of course, Jesus was fully divine.  He was just not your typical child.

Scripture tells us Mary was a virgin until Jesus was born.  Our Church [Roman Catholic] teaches she remained a perpetual virgin.  So that means Joseph and Mary lived together as brother and sister.  Definitely not a traditional marriage, neither for first century Jews, nor today.  What a testament to their love of God, and for each other!  Some people in marriages not recognized by the Church choose to live this way as well, so they can receive Holy Communion.  What a great testimony to their love for God!

And then there was Jesus’s relationship to his family.  In legend, we see Jesus always at his mother’s side; or obediently working in his father’s carpentry shop.  Perhaps.  But in Scripture, we see something quite different.  We see the boy who stayed behind in the Temple; so he could sit with the teachers, and listen to them, and ask them questions.  He wasn’t the obedient child that day.  And later, one time when he was speaking to the crowds, we heard Jesus say, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  And he answers his own question, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.

And what is the will of his heavenly Father?  We should love one another.  So Jesus is radically redefining family.  It is not just a small group of people with a biological connection.  Instead Jesus teaches us the family is defined by a relationship of love for each other, based in relationship to the one Father.  Even on the cross, Jesus tells Mary and his beloved disciple they are family.  This was certainly not the traditional understanding of what a family was in first century Palestine.

This is a message of great hope.  If you come here today wondering if you fit in, please know, you do!  If you think your family is nothing like the Holy Family, look again.  Broaden your understanding of family.   If there are people in your life who are away from the Church because they don’t think they will be accepted, because their family doesn’t fit the “traditional” mold, let them know we need them; we need their example of love.

Family is the place where we experience love.  It is where we learn to be loving people.  That doesn’t always happen in the family we were born into.  But Jesus teaches us we can all be part of a real, loving family, if we can set aside some of our old ideas, and join together in love for others, in relationship to our one Father.