The boiling temperature of water is 100 degrees Celsius.
But if you travel up in altitude, the boiling temperature decreases.
It drops roughly 1o per 1,000 feet elevation.
For example, if you are in Denver, it is around 5,000 feet;
the boiling temperature of water is now 95 degrees;
or if you are in Kilimanjaro at 19,600 feet, it is about 80 degrees.
In fact the water is not very hot at 80 degrees;
it may be boiling but it is not hot!
“Boiling” means it transfers from liquid state into the gas state.
The temperature at which water boils is different
than the temperatures at which that other liquids boil.
Everything has a boiling point at which
it goes from the liquid state to the gas state.
The reason why I bring up “boiling point”
is that I think it is a great metaphor for families.
Particularly at this time of the year!
In the same way different elements or compounds have a boiling point,
every one of us have one too.
When we reach it we tend to do exactly that: Blow!
You have heard the phrases:
“You blow the lid;”
“Blow the gasket.”
We lose some form of control and we boil over.
In the much the same way there are certain atmospheric conditions
that affect the boiling point of water, such as altitude;
there are certain conditions in our own heart
that will create the temperature to be lowered so we boil over easier. Sociologists, psychologists and psychiatrists differ
in their opinion as to family life today.
Some say that family life is significantly more complex
and more stressful than it ever was in history.
Others disagree and say it is just different stresses.
Most researchers will agree however,
there are some intense stressors today not present years ago.
There is one “atmospheric condition of our heart”
that it seems everyone will agree on today
and that is “busyness.”
Today more than in any other generation
we tend to be just busier-not necessarily about the right things
-but just busier doing so many different things often at the same time.
We have constant access to our Smart Phones, tablets and to the Internet.
I do not know if we get more done or not
but we are definitely busier.
Our temperature or boiling point is much lower
because the atmospheric condition of our heart has been lowered.
It is not only due to our busyness
but add all the other stresses of family life.
So what do we do?
We look to the scriptures today
and we get a couple examples of what to do
and how to affect the change in our own life.
First of all, in the gospel,
we get a contrast between two different men as how they handle their stress.
First there is Herod on one hand and then St. Joseph on the other. Herod’s reaction to the stressful news that
the Magi went back a different way from Bethlehem was over the top;
he reached his boiling point and blew a gasket!
He was so enraged that he commanded
every male child under 2 years old to be slaughtered
in the vicinity all around Bethlehem.
Now that is a boiling point gone wrong!
He, in his rage, acts in such a way that it is completely irrational.
Sometimes we act irrational when we boil over;
not that we would go out and murder everyone,
but we become irrational in that moment at our boiling point
and generally our reaction is over the top.
Then we look at St. Joseph.
St. Joseph now is already displaced.
He is a refugee.
He is already in Bethlehem not his own town and now he is fleeing again.
He has two dreams: one in Bethlehem and one in Egypt.
He listens to the messenger of an angel in his dreams.
Now lest we think that is very strange,
Joseph was already a person of deep faith.
Otherwise, he would not have been able to listen for God in the dream.
Joseph was a person who was already listening to God
and he just happens to hear God in the dream.
Joseph was a person of faith who was open to God’s will.
We are called to look to Joseph as the model
and to be open to God’s will in our life.
I do not know any other way to tell you to be open to God’s Will
other than to find some stillness in the midst of our busy lives
and we call that stillness, “prayer.”
We settle ourselves and we listen to where God wants us to act
and then like Joseph, we can act.
What are some of those actions that, if you would,
change the atmospheric conditions of our heart?
In today’s second reading, the letter to the Colossians
gives us some examples of what some of those behaviors
that might change the atmospheric condition of our heart.
He says heartfelt compassion changes our heart and
raises the boiling point of our heart
so that we do not boil over so easily.
Gentleness. Kindness. Patience.
Putting up with one another and forgiveness.
And above all those things put on love.
These are the actions that will increase our boiling points
so that we will not boil over easily and
will allow us to take an incredible amount of stress in our lives
and still be people of kindness and love.
So the question then is how do we do that?
I do not know how else to encourage you to do this
other than we must find time for prayer.
It is only in that stillness can we calm ourselves down,
reduce our boiling point and get ready for actions of:
kindness, gentleness, patience,
forgiveness and above all else put on love.