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Between the Ideal and the Real
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012
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I often have approached the Feast of the Holy Family with some reluctance, thinking about how often it gets elevated to an impossible standard of perfection. But in a conversation with my sister awhile ago, I realized that a parish community is quite similar to a human family, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses. In both cases, we’re held by bonds we can ignore or stretch, but never quite break. Whether in our biological families or the communities that make up our social obligations, we are perpetually caught between the ideal and the real. We strive for the one but often are held back by the other. We can only hope that within that tension, we will find something of the grace that Jesus promises in his own experience of a human family.

Even in the infancy narratives, the evangelists were trying to understand the Easter experience. In the story of the boy Jesus lost in the temple, Luke is not simply showing us that Jesus had a supernatural knowledge of his destiny as the Son of God. Rather, Luke is finding different ways to understand and explain the overwhelming experience of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, who was crucified and raised from the dead.

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem with his parents as he would later go up to celebrate Passover with his disciples. His destiny lies in Jerusalem, for he knows his life centers on doing the will of the Father. He is lost to his parents as he would be dead to his followers, but they recover him after three days. When Mary tells him of their sorrow, their search for him, he says, “Why did you search for me?” just as the messenger by the tomb will ask the disciples, “Why do you search for the living among the dead?”

If the early listeners of Luke’s Gospel were having trouble understanding the experience of death and resurrection, perhaps they could begin with a simpler story of a child separated from his parents. They could see in the parents’ confusion and searching an image of their own search for belief in the Risen Lord. But perhaps in the child’s simple response, his independence and growth in understanding, they can find an answer easier to grasp than the report of a journey through the unknown land of death into an everlasting glory. Luke tells us that to be a disciple is to discover ourselves in the presence of God with the other people in our lives. Jesus is the compassion of God. We’re called to show forth this compassion in our own lives. God’s call in our lives can terrify us with a stark awareness of the risks involved. But it always promises life.

While we are on this journey of faith, we always will be searching—for ourselves and the meaning of our lives, for others who share our faith, for the God who is at the center of that faith. The challenge for us is to continue to explore the stories of Jesus. In all these stories, we see people trying to grasp the meaning of the kingdom, of covenant, of everlasting life. If we can understand these stories, perhaps we can begin to understand our own story of the promise as it unfolds in our own lives.

At the center of that story is the belief that if we die with Christ, we will rise with him. Only in this way can we be about our Father’s business. Only in this way can we be part of the Holy Family of those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

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Maria Faustina Kowalska: St. Faustina's name is forever linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter), the divine mercy chaplet and the divine mercy prayer recited each day at 3 p.m. by many people. 
<p>Born in what is now west-central Poland (part of Germany before World War I), Helena Kowalska was the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter in three of their houses. </p><p>In addition to carrying out her work faithfully, generously serving the needs of the sisters and the local people, she also had a deep interior life. This included receiving revelations from the Lord Jesus, messages that she recorded in her diary at the request of Christ and of her confessors. </p><p>At a time when some Catholics had an image of God as such a strict judge that they might be tempted to despair about the possibility of being forgiven, Jesus chose to emphasize his mercy and forgiveness for sins acknowledged and confessed. “I do not want to punish aching mankind,” he once told St. Faustina, “but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart” (<i>Diary</i> 1588). The two rays emanating from Christ's heart, she said, represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus' death (John 19:34) </p><p>Because Sister Maria Faustina knew that the revelations she had already received did not constitute holiness itself, she wrote in her diary: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (<i>Diary</i> 1107). </p><p>Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland, on October 5, 1938. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993 and canonized her seven years later.</p> American Catholic Blog Since Christians are brought into God’s family through Christ, and since we share in God’s life-giving grace, we are united in a unique and powerful way. This allows us to love and care for one another, as we are commanded to do.

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