The Holy Family

Father Stéphane Pouliot
December 27, 2015

If we were conscious when we left home for church today that we would celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, our first reaction might have been to be frustrated at how far from holy our own family is compared to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That would be unfortunate, because saint Luke in today’s Gospel is quite clear that this is not what he is aiming to do or make us feel.

We know the story so well that we can easily caricature it and miss what saint Luke was trying to do in carefully choosing to emphasize the details foreshadowing Jesus’ mission as an adult.
First of all, Joseph, Mary and the young 12-year old Jesus are going up to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, the adult Jesus has only one destination, going up to Jerusalem for his final Passover on earth.

While in Jerusalem, the 12-year-old Jesus will be lost and then found in his Father’s house. 20 some years later, the adult Jesus will be lost to this world by dying on Good Friday, found alive by rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, and ascending to his Father, thereby going back to his “Father’s house”.

Even the questions the young 12-year-old Jesus asked the Temple’s teachers will foreshadow the questions the adult Jesus will ask the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers less than a generation later.
Upon returning to Nazareth, the 12-year-old Jesus will be a model of obedience to his earthly parents. 20 some years later, Jesus will obey his Heavenly Father to the point of death, and death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).

So, as you can see, there is more to this story than a teenage boy who escapes his parents’ supervision. What is also clear is that this story allows our families to relate to Jesus’ family in a way quite familiar to most of us.

Teenagers most of all know the experience of not feeling quite comfortable at home, as if they feel something beckoning them to go on a journey and find out for themselves who they really are.
Parents know the experience of watching their kids grow up and being caught off guard by the sudden growing up of their babies when they, like Jesus, decide to do a surprising thing and come up with a surprising answer to a legitimate parental question.

“Child, why have you treated us like this?” (Luke 2:48) says Mary in probably the most forward saying that she ever dared to speak to the Son of God.

“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48) Jesus replies, leaving Mary to ponder for decades the full meaning of those words.

She had just said: “Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). Jesus reminds both his mother and foster father that He is from above (cf. John 8:23), and expresses surprise at their shock. Did they not know that his intimacy with His Father would lead him to want to linger in the Temple where He is worshipped?

Many of us have experienced that the desire to go home, as the return to Nazareth expresses for the holy family after what happened that day in the Temple, is never quite so strong as when you have been away from home, on a journey where a surprising decision has led you to proclaim who you are and led others to take stock of this revelation.

“We are reminded that it is only in giving each other the freedom to journey that we give each other the freedom to be home.”1

Last year, I discovered, during our family Christmas celebrations, that my need for deep conversations with a brother and a sister of mine, could not be guessed by them unless I expressed it out loud. I am very close in temperament with my youngest sister. We both need to have long chats about deep things. My brother and my oldest sister do not have that same need.

They are quite happy to attend a celebration where there will be no time for one-on-one deep chats, but lots of time to celebrate in the midst of mini-conversations where the joy of being together is all that matters. This year, I am going home to a family whom I accept as they are, and to whom I am willing to reveal who I am.

I am quite convinced that Mary and Joseph never forgot the moment they lost Jesus. I am also convinced that finding him again three days later led them to ask each other many times in the ensuing years: “Do you remember the time we went to Jerusalem with Jesus when he was 12?”

“There is real adult experience here: the recognition of the unique relationship that persons are called to have with God; the challenge to settle only in the “Father’s house”; the invitation to accompany each other along the way, sharing as best we can what this journey is all about. Jesus, Mary and Joseph have gone the road before us.”2

In the family celebrations of Christmas you have had this year, and whenever the next few days allow you to spend more time with your family, remember that the holiness of our families is perceivable most of all in the space we give each other to reveal ourselves and in the permission we give God to reveal Himself to us through our families, with them and in each every person we call family.


1 Corbin Eddy, “Who knows the Colour of God, Novalis, 2000, p.34.

2 Ibid.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.