December 26, 2021
by Julie Kalkowski
Creighton University's Heider College of Business
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Lectionary: 17

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 OR 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 OR 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10
Colossians 3:12-21 OR 3:12-17 OR 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24
Luke 2:41-52

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Pope Francis' Homily on the Holy Family: 2020 |
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Praying with the Aftermath of Christmas

“…let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” 

Today’s readings hit a little too close to home for me, especially the first reading. I have lived long enough that I have personally experienced a number of adages, such as bursting into tears.  “Their grief was palpable” is one I have recently experienced with my 90-year-old father. He aches for my mother so much sometimes that it is painful to watch.  I try not to grieve for and with my father as the first reading advises, but it is difficult when he wonders why he is still here when he so badly wants to be with my mother.  Telling him, “God isn’t finished with you yet” seems too trite and inappropriate. What can you do in the face of such grief except sit there with him? 

However, some days are much easier for him; especially the days when he ministers to others. We go to daily mass where he has built a community in the Adoration Chapel. He knows everyone’s name and their stories. He asks about their sister with cancer or their son with autism. Their connection is healing for all of them.

My dad also created a phone ministry after my mom passed away. He mostly calls the widows of deacons he has known for years. For some, he is the one of the few non-medical related calls they get all week. He lifts their spirts by calling them nicknames and reminding them of their good times together. In lifting their spirits, he also lifts his by helping him focus on others’ difficulties instead of his own.

On the phone and with his Chapel community, my dad seems to embody these wise words of advice to the Colossians from St. Paul: “Put on...heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these put on love…” In this second reading, St. Paul goes on to say:  “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts…” 

So, at 90, my father is still teaching me. And as long as he is willing to teach me, I am willing to learn. He so well models how well we can ease each other’s burdens if we incorporate St. Paul’s perceptive words into our lives. And when my father sinks into his own fears and pain and grief, he demonstrates how that narrows life and makes it harder to see others’ pain and suffering. It is readily apparent when my father is and when my father isn’t following St. Paul’s sage advice. Like me and most of us, my father would feel better and be much happier if he spent more of his time living the way St. Paul encouraged the Colossians and now us.

Today is the feast day of the Holy Family.  A wise friend once told me there are no ‘sides’ in families, only seasons.  Some seasons are much more difficult than others. So, while our families, our communities and our world are in this difficult season, let us be mindful of St. Paul’s words. I hope you will join me as I work on opening myself up so that the “peace of Christ can control my heart.”  Living with Christ’s peace in my heart will make it much easier to be compassionate and kind to all family members and all God’s children who are struggling.

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