Along with many friends in the Grace Cathedral community, the first amazing cathedral sermon I heard this year was from my colleague, the Rev. Canon Jude Harmon, when he preached about the complex family dynamics in Luke’s story of Jesus’s being “lost” in the temple. I related to the themes of an all-knowing teenager, parents who were terrified about a missing child, and the image of a holy, yet imperfect family. It felt so good – in this year of being improbably cocooned with my husband and college-aged daughter – to be reminded that we are doing the work of being closer to God through the work of being together.
Jude’s words were so uplifting and reassuring that I did something silly right after church. I texted him two pictures: one of Michelangelo’s perfect Holy Family and another of my family, posing in our sweatpants with the family dog on the porch. Blessedly, Jude understood and hearted both. Acknowledging the spiritual practice of loving your family was a good way to start the new year.
Today is another opportunity for me to reflect on this story and its meaning. During the twelve months of the pandemic, relationships have been at the center of what has been good, thriving from every moment of empathy. A new lens on the hardships of the world has urged me into a deeper kindness. While I can’t wait for large gatherings again, our pause has allowed for more connected conversations with family members, colleagues and friends. Even though we go to church virtually, the practice of being together to pray and learn on Sunday seems to help me with everything.
A new understanding of the Holy Family is alive for me in this Lenten season. As Jude said last January, God could have saved the world in a much simpler way. But She insisted that it would be rich, complex and sometimes messy – a source of joy and connection unlike anything else, providing the clarity that we are really not alone.