Advent Reflection for 29 December 2013
"So, chosen by God for this new life of love,
dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.
Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.
It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."
-- Colossians 3:12-14 "The Message"
In the midst of Christmas holidays, we also celebrate the Day of the Holy Family. I've always been fascinated by a sculpture in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., USA, called "Holy Family at Rest". The sculpture captures humanity with incredible depth.
The central figure is an exhausted Mary with baby Jesus almost falling from her arms; the scene invites us to protect the baby and not let him fall. You can see the ambivalence between the tension produced when you are running away, escaping from a dangerous situation versus bodies resting in peace, tired but confident in the divine plan. Joseph and the donkey are lying next to Mary, exhausted too, but trying to give protection to her and the baby.
This tiredness, a feeling of being exhausted, captured in the sculpture, is shared by millions of people, families of all kinds, persecuted, fleeing from their places because of war, conflict, political reasons, ethnic discrimination, gender biases, and many other reasons, hoping to preserve their safety and integrity.
I find it unbelievable how so many people want to cling to one single family model, which by the way finds itself in a profound crisis and in very bad shape. It would be difficult to defend, if you want to be respectful to the Biblical texts, that there is only one family model. Families are as diverse as cultures are and have been changing throughout the history of humanity. There is no such thing as one unique family model; there are many ways of being a family, and sometimes they are functional or dysfunctional. But what is certainly common to all families is the necessity of safety and integrity, just what the Holy Family was also seeking.
Maybe the best approach we can take today is the one of openness proposed in the verses of Colossians: "wear love," which does not specify what a typical Christian family looks like. This approach is one of a sensible family ethic and full of humanity, not necessarily confined to Christianity. The values of the Kingdom can be lived in any type of family.
Today, with the achievements of the LGBT community and marriage equality, we know that the theme of family models is at the center of a multidisciplinary debate. Unfortunately, many traditionalists and conservatives would like to impose their short theological and moral vision, forgetting the garments of love mentioned in Colossians.
But as so many times in the past, I know humanity will find the right approach and lead us towards what is our best contribution: respecting others in all their differences, with humility and in constructive collaboration. And it will be precisely society -- humanity -- which will find solutions, and not the authoritarian and arbitrary decisions of many religious institutions.
"Oh God, Father, Mother, Lover, Friend... primordial Family, frontal origin of Being, ultimate root of Reality... Your ineffable mystery goes beyond our categories. Give us your Light and your Strength to help us to live according to your love with freedom and creativity. In your many names we pray."
I would like to conclude recommending a novel of the great Lusitanian writer, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, José Saramago -- The Gospel According to Jesus Christ -- in which he presents a very interesting view of the episode of the flight to Egypt that marked Joseph for life.
Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez