top of page


Evang./Prof. Michael P. Howard, MACS

The Feast of the Holy Family

"They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, ... in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord." (Lk. 2:22-40) 


As we celebrate Kwanzaa's sixth day, an essential practice in this tradition is greeting the community with these words, "Harbari Gani," which means, "What's the news?" The response today is "Kuumba," creativity. This principle teaches us "To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."   


This year's sixth day of Christmas also has an important theme, "the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph." Traditionally, after the birth of Jesus, the Church identifies this family unit of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as a Holy Family. And rightly so because Jesus is holy, which makes this family holy.  


Interestingly, the synchronization of the tradition of Kwanzaa and the Holy Family is compelling. Reflecting on creativity, the Church encourages families to use their creative powers, charisms, or spiritual gifts to emulate Jesus while persevering for holiness like His Heavenly Father. The seven spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit come from the book of Isaiah, which include "a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD" (Is. 11:2-3). From this text, the Church instructs us that "The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit." (CCC 1830)  


Contemplating our giftedness from the Holy Spirit and the spirit of Kuumba on this sixth day of Kwanzaa causes me to ponder a harsh reality. When using our creativity to live a life of holiness, I see a tremendous roadblock in our way when trying "to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it." When defining being holy, many understand this to mean separate or set apart from one stained with sin. The saying, one rotten apple will spoil the whole bunch, seems like an excellent approach to maintaining holiness in one's family and community. Stay away from sinners, and then you will be holy, or worse, make laws to privatize our community, keeping those people out.   


However, when intently diving into the scriptures, I noticed Jesus hanging with sinners. In front of spectators, Jesus' regular agitators, the Pharisees, and scribes complained, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk. 15:2). Further readings show a crowd upset that Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a tax collector, once again, a sinner. "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner" (Lk. 19:7). In another instance, "The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" (Lk. 5:30). Notice that the instigators directed their complaints to Jesus' disciples, thinking that the tax collectors and sinners polluted the dinner table. Jesus' pundits advocated that He dodge sinners to avoid being tainted by their sinful conduct.  


Listening and watching Jesus' response to His troublemakers gives an excellent example of Kuumba. Jesus was creative, always trying to do as much as He could, in the way He could, in order to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial. Jesus said, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do" (Lk. 5:31). Jesus did not shrink from sharing these gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom and understanding. He looked beyond inappropriate behaviors and embraced everyone: the lousy apple and the sick one living in pain, separated from the world. Sin can deprive one of God's holiness. When people sin, some are ostracized or excluded because they are not holy, sinless, or spotless by other Christians' standards. And yet, Jesus desires to make our community beautiful and beneficial--holy. 


For this reason, the truth is, "We have all become like something unclean; all our just deeds are like polluted rags" (Is. 64:5). We don't need to act like someone's sin will spoil us. We all are polluted rags, even if our garments come from Fifth Avenue or the Gucci clothing stores. We don't need to snub our noises because of a foul stench in the air because of a bad apple. We all have fallen short of the glory of God.  


Therefore, on this sixth day of Kwanzaa and the celebration of the Holy Family, let us use the principle of Kuumba, our creativity, "To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it." There is no one person whose holiness is better than the other. Let us be creative in using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help each other to be holy. Not more religious, but holy. We must bring each other closer to God, who yearns for us to be close to Him and each other. We use our giftedness "as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12), to make each other holy. Kuumba is a tool for holiness.  


"Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough."

 Mary McLeod Bethune

Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,

University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,

Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,

Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry


96 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page