Family: Peaceable or Peaceful?

By a coincidence of the calendar, the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s will not mark the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family. January 1 will be, as always, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is also World Day of Peace. Nevertheless, as Mary was indeed a member of the Holy Family, perhaps a brief reflection on peace in our families may be helpful.

A friend reported an interesting conversation between him and his sister over the holidays. She was suggesting that they edit the list of guests invited for future Christmas gatherings because some folks are just “too tough.” He advised that this would be a bad move: “Sure, families are tough, but holidays are the place where we need to work it out, even if it just a few steps forward.”

Listening, I conjured images of peace negotiations among unfriendly nations. Aren’t families and the myriad issues within them a bit of a microcosm of the larger world? Hosts of different personalities, divergence on political and church perspectives, divisions over past choices, and white-knuckled grips on hurts and memories that seem too powerful to uncuff.

When we pray for peace this Sunday—when we would be usually recalling the Holy Family—might we consider advancing world peace by growing it first in our families, wherever it is needed? I have often thought that we over-romanticize Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a unit. For example, I have to believe that when Jesus was lost in the temple, this husband and wife team did a bit of the blame-game that spouses sometimes do today. After all, as a first-century Jew, Jesus was hanging with the men in the temple. Can’t we just hear Mary saying to Joseph: “Why didn’t you keep your eyes on him?” And, Joseph could have responded with a bit of defensiveness: “I thought he was going out to see you.”

The Holy Family was not a perfect family. No family is. But, it was a loving family. This is our call. Furthermore, to be peaceful is to be free of conflict, but to be peaceable is to work to end conflicts and divisions. Again, no family is free of conflict or static, but each can move to heal such challenge.

As we ring in the New Year, we need world peace, now more than ever! Perhaps we can look to leaders of our own families and develop our peaceability, one relationship at a time.

Happy New Year!