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  • Writer's pictureKathleen O'Brien

To Be Family


For many of us, the holidays and Christmas season bring us together with our family members. This time with family can bring a variety of emotions such as joyful ones but also painful ones. Sometimes we may feel depleted of “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,…” toward our family as our second reading challenges us to. Instead, we may have more “grievance against another”. Therefore, on the Feast of the Holy Family today can mean many different things depending on our relationship with our family members. How we understand not only our own families but also the Holy Family is very dependent on the cultures we come from.


A culture that can teach us a lot about what it means to be family on this feast day is Chinese culture. During my time as a Maryknoll Lay Missionary in China, what I learned above all else from Chinese culture was the importance and influence of family in our lives. Here in the United States often the image of being “self-made” and individualistic overtones of ourselves dominate our identity. However, in China there is a real recognition that one’s identity is ultimately rooted in one’s family. In today’s Gospel, we may be tempted to overlook the significance of Mary and Joseph in Jesus’ life because of our own individualistic conceptions of what it means to be family. However, Chinese culture reminds us that the significance of Jesus’ identity is embedded in his own family. The life Mary and Joseph created for Jesus is what makes Him so significant in our own lives as Christians.



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