Continue to grow in wisdom and in grace
Father Ed Witt, SJ
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Solemnity of the Holy Family, December 31, 2023
On this solemnity of the Holy Family, I was reflecting on what exactly is a family. What does a family look like? And I know my own family, I had a father and a mother of course; he died when I was four-and-a-half. I had a half-brother from my father’s previous marriage. I couldn’t quite figure out how he fit into the family; what it’s like to have a half-brother. And I have one sister. That’s it. It was a small family, and it wasn’t nearly the size of the Kennedy family or my mother’s Irish family of 13.
But it’s not a question of how many children you have in a family but what kind of love you have. How much your family is centered in God.
I used to take my cues about what a family was from American TV, especially in the 50s. As you recall Ozzie and Harriet were the self-proclaimed favorite family in the United States. They had a beautiful home, two children, (little Ricky the rock star idol) and that was it. Two children and a nice home. The men wore suits. Women wore dresses. They were at home waiting for their husbands to come home, except for Mary Tyler Moore who wore slacks and scandalized TV.
I noticed that families were predominantly white. There were no Hispanic families. There were no black families or let alone Native American families. It was Ozzie and Harriet, America’s favorite family.
Of course, who could forget “I Love Lucy,” when she was getting ready to have little Ricky. It even blocked out Eisenhower ‘s inauguration. And at least they had a Cuban father, we heard a different language perhaps.
And then there was “All in the Family,” and that family was at each other ‘s throats calling each other meatheads. They were divided politically, and I never found it particularly enjoyable to watch because there were a lot of insults.
Then finally you did have black families, “The Jeffersons” and Cosby and his family. My favorite family of all was Ralph Kramden and Alice. I’m dating myself If you’ve seen “The Honeymooners.” They had no children. I guess you might say Art Carney would come down and he was their big overgrown child. Ralph was a bus driver and he had these great plans and they always fell through and he always embarrassed himself and his wife, and as their segment went end he’d be pacing around realizing how he’d failed and he’d throw his arms around Alice and say, “Alice, I love you.”
They would forgive one another. “Baby, you’re the greatest,” he would say. I like that because they could forgive one another.
So, the question before Jesus once was who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters? Who are my family? The family Jesus says, “are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Those are family to Jesus.
Finally, I got this card today, very fortuitous from my sister. It says, “family is the best gift you’ve never had to ask for.” And that’s true we don’t pick our families usually and we don’t pick and we don’t choose to be disciples. God has chosen us first. He’s loved us first and therefore he has called us to be his adopted children. We are the family of disciples that is our family who are mother, brother and sister to us.
So final word I would say, I wish you a happy new year and may like the Holy Family in Jesus may you continue to grow in wisdom and in grace.