I’m blessed to have my family. One of the great things about being a diocesan priest is that I get to be near my family and I am also blessed to be a part of so many of your families. After all the masses were finished I went to my family home in Parma to celebrate Christmas. It was a truly enjoyable time. And although, like every family we have our own difficulties, yesterday we experienced great unity around… the Wii. My niece got a new game called “Just Dance.” And I gleamed a few insights about what it means to be a holy family from this experience: The first is that each one of us has to be Intense: Intensely focused on God, intensely participating, and intense in our desire to be a holy family. The Second is that there will be times when we mess up and injure each other. During those times we have to must forgive one another. And the Third is that we need to continuously invite one another and include one another.
So for those of you that don’t know what a Wii is or haven’t heard of “Just Dance.” A Wii is a video game system that allows you to hold a wireless remote controller in your hand and it’s able to detect any movement. “Just Dance” is a game that allows you to listen to an upbeat song and follow the motions on the screen. Up to four people can play this together. My living room floor was literally shaking as we danced and stomped and jumped mimicking the dancer on the screen.
Some of us were more intense than others. My sister Christie won the award for the most intense. She had to actually back off because I don’t think the Wii could handle her speed or intensity! Now because I am willing to embarrass not only myself, but my family for a good homily… Here you have INTENSITY. Keep an eye on the girl in the Panda Pajamas.
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As intense as she was in the dancing we need to be in our faith if we desire to live in a Holy Family. As much as she got her groove on we need to put our faith on… St. Paul encourages us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” We must practice our faith intensely, participating intensely at the Eucharist, singing, praising, and aware. We have to get into it. It may feel awkward. You may not be so sure of your voice or even how to pray or respond, but get over it. We have to look intensely at Christ and this intensity will flow into the rest of our family. This intensity should also be in us every day. At some point during the day we should all spend some time in intense prayer, focused prayer, so that we can follow the Rhythm of our Lord.
Forgiving One Another
Over the course of our lives, because we struggle with sin and our fallen nature. There will be times when we hurt each other. There will be times when we mess up and sometimes unknowingly cause one another pain or disappointment. For the first time my family shared the tradition of the breaking of the Oplatke where you pray together, read from scripture and share the Christmas wafer. At one point of the prayer there is a time when you silently in your heart forgive anyone in the family who has done any wrong to you. Then you pass the wafer around and break a piece off for yourself.
I was given the opportunity to seek forgiveness shortly after this as I was imitating my sister after one of the songs. I got up to imitate her intensity and accidently punched her in the face and then tried to pull my hand back and stepped on her foot knocking her back onto the couch. It was a total accident, but I could see that she was in pain and her lip was bleeding. Seriously, there was blood on her teeth! I was tempted to blow it off, but realized I had to apologize. Thankfully she forgave me and we were able to dance another song together. Here’s a little duet that some of the older generation might be familiar with:
Sometimes we may step on each other’s toes… St. Paul reminds us that being a Holy Family means: “bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.” Is there anyone in your family that you need to forgive? Is there anyone that you have hurt, knowingly or unknowingly, and you need to reach out to them and offer some sign of sorrow? Is there someone you need to bear with more gently? We need this to be a Holy Family.
Finally, we need to continually invite people to the table, both the dinner table as well as the altar at Church. Over the years and at different times each of us will probably stray and we need to continue to invite each other back. Maybe there is someone in your family right now who is away from the faith, or distant from the family. Invite them back. And do so continuously.
One of the hardest people to get to dance was my brother-in-law John. Now, first of all, John had no idea what he was getting himself into when he married into our family. He’s a very polite, proper, and well mannered man. The first time he came to our house my dad was cleaning his guns on the dining room table. His oldest daughter, without asking for it, got a bow-and-arrow from my dad this Christmas. He’s learned to let go and roll with it when he’s over at the Denk house. So he was one of the bigger challenges to play “Just Dance.” But we did succeed and you can see him here. Notice he’s a little off… at times doing the opposite of the rest of us.
The point is though that we need to keep inviting each other into the faith, keep inviting each other to dinner, and most importantly keep inviting each other to the Eucharist. Is there someone in your family right now that is away from their faith? Is there someone that needs to be invited to the celebration?
For our families to be Holy Families we each need to live out our faith intensely, participating in the Eucharist and focusing on Christ in our own lives. We need to reconcile with, forgive each other, and bear with one another. And finally when we stray we need to continuously invite each other back into the family. Through all of this we help to foster the Holy Family that God intends us to be.