Pastor’s Column for 12/30/18
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Family life in the time of Jesus was quite different than what we understand family life to be today. In Mediterranean agrarian societies, boys and girls are brought up together, until the age of puberty, by all the women in the family (mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, etc.). There’s no wonder that the strongest emotional bond in the Mediterranean family is between mother and son. This bond gives the mother enormous power over the son’s life even into adulthood. Recall Rebekah’s meddling in the lives of her adult sons, Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25). In his book, The Cultural World of Jesus, author John Pilch points out that there are a number of consequences to the reality of this style of family life. Boys, especially 1st born sons tend to be invariably spoiled. Because boys are highly valued in this culture, all women pamper and pleasure them. He then concludes that his every word to a woman is like law. Additionally, Pilch claims that the raising of boys and girls together without any male role model until adolescence causes ambiguous identity. At puberty, the boy is unceremoniously shoved out of the comfort of the women’s world into the harsh and hierarchical men’s world. Here all the men teach the adolescent his proper place and behavior frequently with beatings expected to be suffered in silence without retaliation. Looking at the gospel against this backdrop, we can understand why it took Mary and Joseph a full day to realize that the adolescent Jesus was not with the caravan. We celebrate this Feast of the Holy Family within the Octave of Christmas every year.
The magnitude of the Christmas celebration extends for eight days. The new calendar year begins this week, concluding our Christmas octave. Practically every year we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family the Sunday after Christmas when our larger crowds have punched their Cultural Catholic time card so to speak. The rest of us "regulars" are then back in our comfort zone with plenty of elbow room or disturbed that too many who call themselves Catholic do not really wish to practice their faith by participating in the sacramental life of the Church, at least not on a consistent regular basis the way we do. What can be done about this disturbing situation? The one word answer is "evangelization" but that still sounds too Protestant to many Catholic ears. The word "evangelist" comes from the Biblical Greekword εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as "euangelion") via Latinised Evangelium. The word means "good news." In our family of Faith here at St. Matthew, our "Good News" can be uniquely presented to our neighbors, visitors and so-called "cultural Catholics" by truly reflecting that Holy Family that we give honor to today. Our family of faith here at the parish is very diverse and when we look at ourselves on a grander scale, we are far more diverse still. Give thanks to God today for the unity we share even amidst such wonderful diversity which makes our community anything but boring.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Tom J. Anastasia, Pastor