Christmas week is always jarring. Why? Because our Savior’s joyful birth sets loose a universal celebration with heavenly hosts and angels singing Gloria, Shepherds making merry, Magi following the star in wonder. And all humankind is raised up to a new hope.
But then, in rapid succession, we observe the bloody execution by stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Next, we keep the Feast of John the Beloved disciple, the only one of the twelve apostles not to die a bloody martyr’s death.
Then what follows is the Massacre of the Innocents. Rachel, weeping for her children, will not be consoled.
Saturday we recall the shocking murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Thomas Becket, while at prayer in his Cathedral. All of Christendom was scandalized by this blasphemous violation of sanctuary that cried out to God for response.
A week that begins with such joy and hope devolves into bloody suffering and death of the innocent. Mary, rejoicing at the birth of her child, is followed by Rachel weeping for her children with loud lamentation. She would not be consoled since they were no more. Just as Mary is the mother of all believers, so Rachel, wife of Jacob, (Israel) was the mother of the Jewish people.
This week filled with tragedies began with so much joy. How do we make sense of this week? Why does the Church follow Christmas joy with so much sadness?
Reflecting on Mary rejoicing and Rachel weeping reminds us that all families, like our Catholic Christian families, are masterpieces of God’s creative love. Yet all families are also dysfunctional in some way because we are still part of fallen creation.
The Birth of the Savior reminds us that Love has taken on flesh in our world and the Savior has come to guide us, to challenge us, to light the path for us and to love us into loving each other and respecting each other more as children of a good God, brothers and sisters of his own Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So, if your family is not perfect, welcome to the family. If you have been touched and blessed and even transformed by the beauty and wonder of the Savior born among us this Christmas, then you and we all have new hope.
That same Savior blesses us with all we need to love and be loved more fully and to share His love with other families and even strangers. Nothing is more beautiful than to share with others the joy of encountering the Lord Jesus.
This joy allows families to rejoice like Mary and to see our way through the tragedies of life and to be consoled and bring consolation even to Rachel weeping for her children. On this Holy Family Sunday, may the Holy Family of Bethlehem and Nazareth bless all our families with new hope. Amen.
Each weekday, the homily from Daily Mass at Holy Cross Family Ministries is shared online. Visit Family Rosary: World at Prayer and sign up to receive notifications of each day’s homily.
Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.