Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Holy Family B, Dec. 28, 2014 Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Many times over the past few weeks
I’ve been asked where I was going to
“have Thanksgiving” or “have Christmas.”
People care about whether or not I’ll have a place to go.
Maybe I get more of it
because people know I’m single and live alone.
But maybe I don’t.
I overhear lots of others getting that same question asked of them,
so maybe it’s a sign of the many hearts
overflowing with loving concern, especially this time of year.
My dad died in 1981 and my mom in 1997;
my older brother is 1500 miles south of here,
and my younger brother is 2400 miles west.
But I’m blessed to have cousins here in town,
so I always get invited to their holiday feasts.
On the few years when they’ve been visiting out-of-town relatives,
I’ve been equally blessed
with friends who invited me to share the holidays with them.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family
of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
When I was a youngster back in Fremont,
the Sisters at St. Ann’s School
and the Pastor in his sermons
and the pictures in our religion books
all depicted the Holy Family
as what sociologists called the “nuclear family”—
the paradigm of a married Mom and Dad
with their biological children.
That was presented as the norm,
but even then it didn’t include every family
and certainly didn’t include every person.
Still, it was presented as the “holy” family,
and the rest, by implication, were somehow not so holy.
In grade school there were Judy and Ron,
who lived with their divorced and remarried mother
and stepfather.
There was Grady, who lived with his grandmother.
There was Norma, whose parents looked so different from her
that we all knew she had to have been adopted.
The grown-ups would whisper about them,
but when we kids came into the room Grandma would say,
“Little pitchers have big ears,”
and they’d change the subject.
American society has changed in the last 60 years,
and one of the very good changes
is that we no longer shun people
whose family configurations are not
what we were taught to think of as “normal.”
The census data tells us that the model nuclear family
was not a majority, even in 1970.
Today fewer than 20% of U.S. households
fit that “nuclear” family model.
What kind of family do the other 80% of the households have?
The greatest number—60% of the population—
live either alone or in a household with one other person.
Nearly three million households
are grandparents raising grandchildren.
Two million children live in a family formed by adoption.
Over four million children
live with one biological parent
and one nurturing parent to whom they are not related.
More married couples now live without children
than live with children.
So it’s heartening for us to look more closely
at the real Holy Family of Nazareth.
They don’t fit the “model nuclear family”
that we had held up to us in our youth, either.
As our tradition has it,
we see a mother pregnant out of wedlock,
with her baby being tended by an older man
who married her
even though he knew he wasn’t the baby’s biological father.
So what’s a family?
One definition is a group consisting of parents and children
living together in a household.
Another definition is all the descendants of a common ancestor.
Or a social unit that operates as a family.
So it could be a traditional family, a single-parent family,
a blended family, an extended family, an adoptive family,
a nurturing family, a multi-generational family.
A holy family is easier to define.
It’s two or more people who care deeply for one another.
That includes our human family.
That includes our church family.
On Thanksgiving Day—
before feasting with my cousins
and their extended family and friends—
I went over to Christ the King Parish,
where I feasted with some of my Claver House family,
among them George and his grandson Lamar, Rob,
and Sherri and Dick.
Then we had our Community family’s Christmas Party
over at Bravo!, thanks to Suzy and Lou for organizing it..
Then Christmas Eve, again with my Claver House family,
for beef roast and mashed potatoes and all the trimmings,
and plenty of choices even for a “non-carnivore” like me.
And then the Christmas feast.
And next Sunday there’ll be the annual Epiphany Dinner,
again with my Claver House family.
And the almost daily gatherings in between,
all celebrated with members of the holy family of humankind.
Breaking bread and sharing life—that’s family.
So where did I “have” Christmas this year?
Everywhere I went,
wherever people gathered in friendship and peace,
whether it was over a grilled cheese and fries at the Big Boy
or stuffed grape leaves and feta salad at Tony’s,
or here in our Holy Spirit Community Chapel.
So let’s prepare once again to break bread together,
our one family,
this holy people of God.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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