TANDAG CITY (MindaNews /27 December) — As we celebrate today the feast of the Holy Family, we recognize and revere Joseph, Mary, and Jesus whom we consider as exemplars of shared love and obedience to the will of God. Today’s feast reiterates the mystery of Christmas when we behold the coming of the Savior through a family. God in his goodness has chosen a family to be the platform where his work of salvation begun. The coming of Jesus indeed through the family of Nazareth dignified each family in this world no matter how different and unique each family may be.
We Filipinos are family-oriented and we take the Holy Family as our model of shared love. In each of our own families, we first experienced being loved and learned to love in return. We always attribute our success to our families. They are the cause of our struggles and source of our inspiration. Unfortunately, some of us failed to experience this love if not fail to understand the experience. In this way, one’s own family can be the cause of one’s downfall. On the other hand, one ‘well-off’ family can cause the misery of many families.
In the recent killings caught on video in Tarlac, there was not only a double-murder committed but a clash of two families. Here we can see different ways of loving one’s family. The daughter and her father together with the mother and her son are curious characters of how they grew up and were reared. While there was an overwhelming sentiment of condemnation on the said event, there were still few sadly who condoned it. This case is perhaps symptomatic of what is happening to the families around the country at present.
Apart from the families who have the privilege of celebrating the noche buena, we should remember that the highest hunger rate was recorded before Christmas. There were thousands of families who celebrated Christmas fatherless due to EJK (extrajudicial killings).
Many families are ‘incomplete’ now due to this pandemic or the mishandling of it. There are families celebrating Christmas separately, either innocently in prison cells or working hard abroad. I doubt even if every family has eaten noche buena while few families who are well-connected with power perhaps wallow in surplus food.
In this feast of the Holy Family, we are reminded of what is essential in a family without essentializing what each one has. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus became a holy family because they share this love. I really don’t think that they didn’t experience conflict for one another, for how can they learn forgiveness? What I reflected is that in families, we don’t only experience love, sometimes we need to consciously decide to love. Persons in our families are not perfect at all but they are often made instrument by our Lord to let us feel his love. That perfect love of God flows through the imperfect love of our parents and siblings. If we still fail to see this love, maybe we can succeed in forgiveness.
The Holy Family of Nazareth has shown the world today that what makes them an exemplary family is not their house, or transport vehicle, or their bank deposits, or their land titles, or their popularity, etc. It is in their capacity to selflessly share this love that qualified them as holy. Their material deprivation did not condition them to live in misery but in utmost joy with the immense love they have for each other.
Sometimes, it is difficult to see real love in our family today when we rely on the conditioning of the world on what truly gives us joy. Yes, the economic and political structures of our country continue to oppress thousands of families at present. But while we struggle to denounce such oppressive structures, a family can choose to be happy in inexpensive way of the Holy Family.
Love is always free as well as forgiveness. A selfless love is considerate and understanding. A shared love in a family can truly be a source of strength and inspiration to face the challenging world today. And even this challenging world can be toppled beginning with the love we truly experience in each of our own families.
My prayers for all the families out there who continue struggle to follow the way of the Holy Family. May God bless you always.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Raymond Montero Ambray is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Tandag and a graduate of MA Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. He is a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and a founding member of Caraga Watch, an environmental watchdog. He is part of the think tank of the Bishop of Tandag on IP Apostolate, formation on Environment and the Historical Commission. This piece was first published on his FB page on December 27, 2020. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this)