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The Holy Family

by John K. Stoner (December 7, 2017)

During Advent you will see pictures or creche depictions of The Holy Family—the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.

Today I ask, “Might the human family be thought of as a, or the, holy family?”

A family may be called a small community.  It is the first community which most of us know, and the social unit bigger than ourselves in which most of us grow up. The family sustains our life with food, clothing and shelter, and teaches us something of how to live in the world.  That makes it a very important piece of community. 

In the family, if we are reasonably fortunate, we learn to cooperate enough to survive, and if we are more fortunate, even to thrive.  But there are, sadly, many  broken and dysfunctional families, and children raised in these situations may struggle throughout life to recover what they never had as infants or youth.  

The message of Christmas is that in Jesus God came into the world in a special way to live in and among humans.  I understand 
the teaching of Jesus to be that God dwells in all of us in a fashion similar to how he, or we, claim that God dwelled in Jesus.  Repeatedly he challenged his peers to see God in their neighbors, and even enemies.  That is a radical concept!

It implies, or clearly teaches, that God is to be found in human beings, not to be sought in a far off heaven.  And it means that what we do to one another, we do to God.

This is the most clear and profound reason for treating all human life as sacred, and refusing ever to commit homicide—to kill a human.  As created children of God we are all siblings, which makes all homicide fratricide.  As the place where God dwells, all people are small expressions of God, which makes all homicide deicide—the killing of deity.  Jesus, looking at a child, said, “Whoever welcomes this child welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me” (Luke 9:48).  So the reality is, whoever thought they were killing their enemy were killing their brother, sister, and God.  People who kill people experience not just PTSD, but moral injury, because they have violated a truth of the universe which is written indelibly into their moral DNA. 

In today’s blog I am drawing out implications of the first blog in this series, Communities of Nonviolence.  There I discussed the possibility of choosing to belong to a community which nurtures you in the understanding and practice of your better rather than your worse impulses and possibilities.  This is no small thing, because we become what we choose one day after another.  

So at this advent, let’s think in the big picture.  What if we made the human family our holy family, and sought to value the larger circle of our relationships in a manner similar to our value of the close ones?  

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