Feast of the Holy Family "Glimpses of Grace" ~ Susan McGurgan


Sometimes, among the diapers and the cheerios,

in the middle of carpools

and homework wars and hockey practice--

in the chaos that surrounds any parent,

there are glimpses of grace.


Moments when God reaches

deep into the clutter of our lives

and brings forth a harvest

that we never knew was planted.


Moments when God ignores

all the barriers and debris

that we place between ourselves

and our redemption

and reminds us that we are holy.


And in those moments,

sticky hands are transformed into

instruments of grace

and stories of playground betrayal and forgiveness

become words of wisdom and hope.


In those moments,

ordinary events take on new depths of meaning,

and even McDonald’s

can become a cathedral.


In my family,

those moments

rarely came when the five of us

were kneeling piously in church.

They almost never happened

when the camera was loaded

and the neighbors were watching.


In all families, these moments tend to be elusive,

and holding on to them

can be as tricky

as herding a naked toddler

after a soapy bath.


These holy moments often come

with the suddenness of a stealth bomber strike

that can leave you

gasping for air.


Sometimes,

as with Mary and Joseph,

these moments come in the form

of heart-stopping fear

and mind-numbing panic.


Mary and Joseph and Jesus

had gone up to Jerusalem

to celebrate the feast of Passover.

And as they were returning home--

probably in a large, confusing caravan--

they realized that Jesus

was no longer with them.


Returning to Jerusalem,

they found him three days later

sitting with the teachers in the temple,

wondering what all the fuss was about

and responding with a smart answer:

Why were you looking for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?.


This story strikes a chord

in every parent

who ever yelled,

I told you to stay right there!

I told you, Don’t move!

What were you thinking?”

and then clutches the truant in a burst of love

so profound

it curls your toes.


This is a story for every sleep-deprived mother

who feared that she would

someday

drive off in an empty van,

leaving the baby

in the basket at Walmart.


This story is for every father

with panic in his eyes

who scans the crowd at the football game,

or the mob exiting the subway,

looking for that one

small,

familiar face.


This story is for every family

who makes a mistake sometimes.

For every family who gets angry

at a kid who should have stayed put,

and didn’t.


This story is for every person

who knows what it’s like

to lose something precious,

and then find it again.


This story is for everyone

who discovers in the quirky wonder

of their own holy family,

the wonder of a God

who will leave the caravan

and come to find us

each and every time we are lost.


But this is not simply a story

about finding a lost child.

It’s also about a child

who is finding his own way--

even if that way takes him away from home.


It’s a reminder

that being created in God’s image

means that sooner or later,

we must all leave the safety of the caravan

and go where God leads us,

even if that path leads directly to danger.


It’s a reminder to parents

that these holy moments of discovery and growth

can come with the suddenness

that leaves us gasping for air

and frightened for the future.


It’s a reminder

that God calls us into families and friendships—

not so much to protect us,

but to prepare us--

to launch us into a journey of faith and mission.


It is no accident

that Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor

in the midst of a family.

A family that was sometimes panicked

and astonished

and even fearful,

at the behavior of a 12 year old boy.


It is no accident that

God used that family—

as he can use ours--

to reach deep into people’s lives,

producing a harvest

no one even knew had been planted.


God came to live among us,

not in a temple

perched on a high mountain

or in a museum

safely locked behind glass.

No, the Word became flesh

and dwelled among us,

reminding us

of the holiness that can be found

right in the middle of the homework wars

and buried beneath a pile of laundry.

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