Sunday, December 30, 2018
Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say! Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Reflection for December 30, 2018
As we stand on the edge of 2018, the Church asks us to reflect on the most common gathering of people that we know-- the family. If we ever wondered if Mary and Joseph had any problems raising Jesus, Luke gives us a glimpse into their real life! I must admit that I feel a bit inadequate to offer this reflection because I have not had the blessing of raising a family. I have never been married and have no children. But I feel that my own experience of growing up as an only child and years of teaching teenagers helps me to relate to this Gospel passage.
Jesus’s conversation with his parents says to me that he is acting out of his humanity-- his adolescent self! As I was praying about this passage, I tried to imagine the anxiety Mary and Joseph must have experienced when they realized that they could not find their son.
I have, in a way, experienced that emotional turmoil. I had the privilege of helping to resettle 5 unaccompanied minors from the Sudan. These young people, who were orphans, ranged in age from about 14 to 19 when they arrived in Philadelphia, PA in the year 2000. They lived in the Jesuit Refugee Camp in Kakuma Kenya for 10 years during the civil war in their home country. They were unaccustomed to public transportation typically found in large cities.
Shortly after they arrived, I and some friends taught each one how to go to school on public transportation. About two weeks into their travels to school, I went to their home to help with homework (they were living independently with adult monitoring) and I noticed there were only four. “Where’s David?” I asked. David was the youngest. No one knew; they thought he was in his room and fell asleep at dinner time. A search brought the reality that David was nowhere to be found in the house. I decided to drive around the neighborhood before calling the police to report a missing person. About 15 blocks away from their home, David is walking briskly down the street-- away from his house. When I asked him what happened, he told me the bus route ended before his stop and he decided to walk home-- but he was walking the wrong way! In a two hour span, I had a glimpse of the anxiety parents face when their children go missing.
What are we invited to consider today? After praying about this, I had these 3 thoughts:
1) We are asked by God to appreciate our own call to holiness within our families. Life can get complicated and messy. Family members fight and get angry; they sometimes do not apologize and parents may need help understanding their children and their actions. God is there in all of it and is always inviting us to try love our family members as best we can with all their blessings and challenges.
2) Jesus was born into our world so that he could share in all of our experiences. Here we see the teenage Jesus acting just as someone his age would---and he leaves his parents a bit bewildered. Can we be compassionate and supportive of parents who struggle to raise their children in this complicated world? If you are a parent, can you be kind to yourself? Can you reach out to friends or other family members when you are struggling to understand your child?
3) Teens struggle to find their place in the world. They are not yet adults but are not young children. How do we invite them to be their best selves? Are we encouraging them to use their gifts and talents for both the service of their parents, siblings, and those outside of their families? Do we encourage them to grow in their relationship with God? Do we encourage them to question, to struggle with the challenging issues of life (yes, including Church!) and are we willing to enter into dialogue with them? Giving easy answers doesn’t prepare them for the real world. Saying “I don’t know, but let’s talk about it” encourages good thought and a willingness to know that life is not full of easily resolved issues. Luke tells us today that Mary did not understand her son. I imagine that they had a few conversations about that incident in the Temple as the years passed by!
Let us be encouraged by today’s Gospel and let us be willing to both listen and enter into conversation with the Holy Family who mirrors for us the beauty of knowing we are accompanied by God both when we are consoled, and when we find ourselves seeking understanding as we journey with our own family members through life.
Boreta Singleton has been a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish since 2003 and is a member of the choir, serves as a Spritual Director in the ISEL program and as a liturgical minister. She is currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as the Director of Faculty Formation. Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with The Ignatian Schola and the chorus of Choral Chameleon.