The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
To love and be loved is what all of us yearn for and no matter how much money you have you can’t buy it. You need to find it or be born into it. A family, a loving family, is part of that. To be sure, not everyone has that in life, many families have turmoil and struggles that just seem to be unsolvable. But still we yearn for that love of family. St. John Paul II said that “The future of the world and of theChurch passes through the family”.
My family, mostly Irish, gathered to eat, drink and argue, we didn’t see ourselves as the future of the world and of the Church. But the common denominator was the love each person had for the others, it just manifested itself in different ways. Most of you can probably point to similar family traits in your own life experience. Today we’re celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We have a statue at the back of the church which represents the Holy Family. It has just the three of them depicted but they didn’t live in isolation. They lived among a community of family and friends just like we do. None of us grew up in a perfect family and some of us may have even grown up in a family that was painful, but all of us can try to be more like the Holy Family, whether we are a family of one or of many. The ideal may be hard to reach but that shouldn’t discourage us.
At this time of year many of us are with our families, some of whom we may not see often. But while Christmas is a time for families to be together, it can also be a time that we dread. Sometimes because we miss our families so much, but sometimes because it can also be a time of tension and misunderstanding. We celebrate this feast on the Sunday after Christmas to give honor and respect to a family whose lives should be our role models. From the moment of his birth Jesus and his family were in danger. Today it seems that everyone’s family is in danger because the family is the subject of social manipulation and experimentation.
We may use the name ‘family’ to describe whatever we please, but God has made plain through Jesus, Mary and Joseph, His will for every family. Every child has a right to enjoy the security of committed love and consistent example, both of a man-father and a woman-mother. My family has lots of funny stories that bind us together and make us laugh, but we also have stories that make us cry. The Holy Family surely had funny stories about gathering with their kin just as we do. And the rejection of Jesus as a grown man made for sad times too. But the model that The Holy Family provides for us all is the ideal.
Mary was very likely capable of running a household singlehandedly, and God might very well have asked Mary to go it alone, but He didn’t. He picked Joseph to marry, love and protect Mary and to teach and nurture the child Jesus. God gave his only son an authentic human family to grow up in. The time and place and circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and the formation of the family into which he was to be born were not accidental. God chose the time and place that he would take flesh and live among us as a man for his own reasons, not by some accident of history.
When Joseph’s dream warned of the threat against Jesus’ life, he “ rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” That escape to Egypt in those days would have been almost
impossible for a woman traveling alone with an infant. The ideal of the two parent home is what the Holy Family holds out for us. Many children grow up in homes, raised by a loving single parent. It’s a reality of modern life but not the ideal.
At one time the entire Chosen People, the Hebrews, consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac—at one time the entire Church consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The Church began in the home of Joseph and Mary. But in that home are three humans. To understand the incarnation we need to realize that Jesus was an infant at birth not a fully mature man. He needed the same care and nurturing that all infants need. It would be thirty years later before he began his public ministry. And in those hidden years his growth to maturity takes place in the context of a human family.
The catechism says: “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” (CCC 1666)
Every Christian family is meant to be a domestic Church. In our families, we learn to trust others, we learn to speak and to behave, we learn about relating to others, and we learn to love both God and neighbor. Love can’t be learned in isolation, or from a book, but only in community.
While our families may not measure up to the ideal since we aren’t Joseph or Mary, and our kids surely aren’t Jesus, we can make this week a celebration of our own families, imperfect but trying to be better, and modeled on the Holy Family that we celebrate today.
So as you go through this week think and pray about these three questions.
Second – Do others see that being a Catholic means you live differently?
And Third – Besides working on your own prayer life, if you have children at home, do you teach them to have a relationship with God through a life of prayer?
Because as our sainted Pope said, the future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.