In reviewing all the situations in the early life of Jesus there were some that were very happy situations, some that were very sad, and others which called for actions and finally some that called for real contemplation. In virtually all of them there is one action therapy which helped the Holy Family to accept, bear-with and capitalize on the situation. For me that action can be best defined as Hug Therapy. I will get into the definition of that therapy a little later. There are a number of types of hugs including: a bear hug, an A-frame hug, A cheek hug, A sandwich hug, A grabber-Squeezer hug, A group hug, A side by side hug, A back to front hug, and A heart centered hug) Choose the hug you are most comfortable with and using it, hug as many of your neighbors as you would like using the hug of your choice)
Before we really get started, I have a confession to make and when you hear the details, even knowing just a little about me, I believe you will understand. My confession is that I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife. That woman just happens to be my first love, my mother.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity Mary, the Mother of God and a mother who has logically had her arms around many people and still does. Today, we as well celebrate the World Day of Peace and there is a close connection between the two of them, that is, the solemnity and the day of peace. The Therapy I am talking about is Hug Therapy as defined by its author, Kathleen Keating in this little book in which she defines that therapy as “an instinct, a natural response of feelings of affection, compassion, need and joy. She as well says that in its highest form, hugging is also an art. She continues by defining its characteristics as nonsexual, thoughtful, respectful, care-filled, comforting and supportive. She sees the cost for those utilizing that therapy is for the participants to be vulnerable and open.
As you might expect the Blessed Virgin was and is an expert in practicing Hug Therapy. One example in Jesus’ early life where I believe Mary practice Hug Therapy was in the first part of her pregnancy when she was suspected of being unfaithful, and at which time she journeyed to visit her cousin Elizabeth who in her old age was pregnant with the person we know as John the Baptist. In Elizabeth’s case it wasn’t that she was suspected of being unfaithful but rather that in the Jewish culture at that time, sexual relations for old people was taboo, that is she was judged to be a dirty old lady. There they were in their mutual happy but sad situations, sharing their emotions with what Kathleen Keating defines a “Heart-centered hugs, sharing their compassions and joys.
A second example as covered in today’s Gospel was the situation where the shepherds went away from their flocks in the field in order to “see what the angel had told them about and saw the baby Jesus lying In a bed of hay and they told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said to them. Can you imagine what hugging went on as they, the shepherds were filled with joy as they congratulated and comforted the Holy Family.
A third example brought out in today’s Gospel was when “after 8 days Jesus parents went to the Temple to do for Jesus what the Law of Moses commands. It was there that a very old couple, Simeon and Anna blessed the Holy Family and shared words of wisdom and prophesy with them. Again, we can imagine the hugging that went on as they too were filled with joy and thanksgiving.
And now on this first day of the New Year, is the time for New Year’s resolutions. One of those resolutions could be to always be open to realizing when it is appropriate to practice Hug Therapy in order to help bring about peace in our lives, in those around us, in our community and in our part of the world.