As the calendar year draws to an end I find myself in an unusual situation. While in some ways my plans for the future have been railroaded, there are many opportunities presented. Which of these I am to take is unclear at this point. When I mentioned my unexpected situation to the Deacon at my local parish he said what a blessed position I am in to be living so much in the mercy of God. Needless to say, these were not quite the words I would have used.
This Sunday’s gospel recounts the first uneasy years of the Holy Family (whose Feast Day it is). It is not surprising that it is after the wise men leave (a symbol of the departure of earthly wisdom) Joseph becomes more explicitly at the mercy of God. Through the intercession of angels God sends word to Joseph (a man docile to the Father) to move the Family here, there and everywhere.
While Matthew explains the meanings behind these (to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through the prophets) there is also an element of the Exodus from Egypt, however now it is to Egypt and not from it. What remains, and always did, is the guiding hand of the Lord to safety and protection. It is through trials that I find my trust in the Lord is tested as through a fire, though the scriptural fire is found as Herod and his son Archelaus.
Many today are persecuted for any number of reasons. For some this persecution drives them out of their homelands and, like Christ, become refugees. Being thrown off course; having plans changed; being driven from a homeland; such trials present opportunities in disguise. These opportunities are not without problems yet these difficulties have a way of uniting those who are persecuted, a way of strengthening bonds.
There’s another key feature of the Holy Family’s journey (I hate this word: life is an adventure, not a passive journey). The Immaculate Mary and the perfect Infant Child both in their humility submit themselves to fallible Joseph. That is trust! Joseph must surely have been a very righteous man! The perfect guided by the imperfect. Relationships are key, no matter who we are, and our ultimate relationship is between us and God. The same God that is so far above us that he humbles himself as a babe in a manger under the protection of a man.
Yet who was protecting who? It was the angels that instructed Joseph to move here, there and everywhere. No doubt all three were under the watchful eye of a loving God, as we all are. The Holy Family holds a special significance to the eyes of the faithful for they become a model for all families who are, as the church describes, the domestic church.
Following the model of the Family there is a certain pressure, yet relief, as the father of my domestic church. The pressure is in the uncertainty of what lies ahead; the hows and whats of provision, protection and direction. The relief is found in the knowledge that ultimately God is providing, protecting and directing the family, if I remain docile to his will. Things often change and each change presents opportunities: the most prominent, to walk closer with God. I don’t know what my future holds but, as the cliche goes, I know who holds the future. May God continue to pour out his blessings on you in 2014.