Feast of Holy Family | Col 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52

A quick search on youtube or google shows that there are a number of people who attempt to drive a car around the world (or a good part of the way!). A common factor among these adventurers is the terrible shape that their cars are in. Even if they start their journey with a new car, over time the vehicle requires numerous repairs. By the end of the journey, the car is often held together with little more than duct tape! In spite of this, with proper maintenance, the car often makes it to its destination. In addition, the owner of the vehicle even develops a real attachment to their worn-down car.sourceEach of our families are like flawed car used to drive around the world. All of us have imperfect families which are still wonderful and will get us to our destination: union with God. Every so often, someone will say something to me like this: “since you are a priest, you must have come from such an amazing and pious family”. To this, I try to offer two clarifications. First, I explain that although I love and am grateful for my vocation as a priest, it is not superior to other vocations. Second, I want the person to understand that my family is very normal. I love my family and I think my family is wonderful, but it is not perfect. We have struggles and need to work at things like all families. There is no perfect family. Even in the Gospel (Luke 2:41-52), we see that the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, had their struggles. The 12 year old Jesus goes to the Temple, without telling his parents. He causes them real anxiety. Mary and Joseph cannot understand their child. No family is perfect but it is the vehicle God has given us to reach our destination, union with Him in heaven.

In the second reading from the letter to the Colossians, Paul recognizes the imperfect nature of families at his time (Col 3:12-21). Was there any part of the reading that stuck out to you? Perhaps the part at the end where it states that wives should be “subordinate to their husbands”? To properly interpret this text, it is important to realize that in Colossians we have an example of a specific type of writing called a “Household Code” (Col 3:18-25). Such codes are found in other Greco-Roman writing (e.g. Aristotle) as well as elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Ephesians 5-6). Household codes, like that in Colossians, have a threefold structure that describes three types of relationships that were normative in a family at that time: wife/husband, children/parents and slave/master (which is omitted from the reading at Mass). In each of these three relationships, the duties of what was seen as the inferior in the relationship was always described before the superior. Wives are to be subordinate to their husbands. Children are to obey their parents. Slaves are to obey their masters in everything. In Colossians, Paul takes this current family structure, which is not Christian, for granted. He does not approve of it. Paul wants to show how this imperfect family structure can be gradually transformed because of faith in Jesus. In important ways, families have improved since Paul’s time. Slavery is generally outlawed. The relationship between husband and wife is understood as an equal partnership. It would be wrong to use Colossians as an argument to re-establish what was a broken family structure. Hopefully, no Catholic would use Paul’s Household as an argument for slavery. Hopefully, no Catholic would use Paul’s Household as an argument for a patriarchal marital relationship. In Colossians, Paul takes an imperfect family structure for granted.

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