Let us extend the boundaries of our families. During the Octave (eight days) of Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. It teaches us about the relationship of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, about each one of us, and our own families. On this feast, we pray in thanksgiving for all our holy families. We may not think of our families as holy, but every family is a holy family because it is a place of God’s love. Whether it’s in our flaws and failures or in moments of successes and celebrations, God is in the midst of all our families. No one’s family is ever perfect. All our family members, including ourselves, from time to time have made mistakes and have gotten things wrong. We have all done and said things that we have later regretted. The family is the first place where we learn to become broader people, to celebrate, laugh and splash water at our differences rather than let them divide us.
A family is holy, not because it is sinless, but because of how it responds to sin. We are called to show love and forgiveness rather than anger and resentment. As Catholic Christians, whenever we hurt each other, we must find ways to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” And the one offended is challenged to pronounce those liberating words: “I do forgive you.” Let us reflect upon our own family life. Some of our families may be in the midst of a struggle, have difficulty with basic communication, some are broken, and others may be deeply wounded. No matter the case, we know that God wants to enter deeply into our family life, meeting us where we are, right now. God desires to give us renewed strength and virtue to live as a Holy Family.
On this feast in particular, we are reminded of the humanity of Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus grew up in their home and spent His childhood as a rather typical Israelite boy. In fact, the only thing we know about Jesus’ childhood, apart from His infancy, is the account we hear in today’s Gospel, but we learn quite a few things about the Holy Family from this short account. First, we see that they are a faithful Jewish family by their observance of traveling to Jerusalem once a year for the feast of Passover. Second, we learn that they traveled in a “caravan” that probably included many, many relatives and friends. There were enough people, at least, for it to take a day of traveling before Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the group. It would have been typical for a twelve-year-old boy, who was coming of age, to be with the men of the group, rather than with His own parents. Third, we see Mary and Joseph as having had typical parental concerns. Not being able to find Jesus for three days caused them “great anxiety.” In fact, these three days of sorrow foreshadows the three days of sorrow that Mary would experience again at the time of Jesus’ death, when Jesus would be in the tomb for three days. The finding in the Temple, therefore, foreshadows the great joy of the Resurrection.
Fourth, Jesus’ response to Mary and Joseph when they find Him reveals that their role, although essential, was to be subordinate to the will of Jesus’ Father in Heaven. The passage tells us that Jesus “was obedient to them,” but His obedience was always connected to His obedience to His Heavenly Father. Likewise, our families are to be reflections of our relationship with God our Father.
The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we need to live our lives with the awareness that we are dedicated people consecrated to God, and that we are obliged and empowered by His grace to lead holy lives. Let us extend the boundaries of our family. The homeless man or woman today in the streets of our cities and towns, fighting the cold and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict, living in fear and aloneness this day, is a member of our family. The sick person, the dying person, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell is a child of God, and a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are worthy of our love and charity. May God bless all our families in the New Year.
Amid today’s important and ongoing debates about the definitions and nature of marriage and family, both within the Church and in broader society, this feast reminds us of the true vocation of the family: to foster the faith of each of its members and to support them in their search for God and God’s will for them in their lives. Mary and Joseph instilled in Jesus a love for the traditions and laws of God’s Chosen People. Families, parishes, and even religious communities are called to nurture the same values. Let us reflect on the following questions:
Who in your family—both in your home and in the broader human family—is alone or on the margins?
How can you be a sign of God’s love for them?
What is God calling you to do a member of Holy Family Parish?
How do you share your unique gifts and talents in your own family and parish?
This is our prayer for your family today: “Father, I give my family over to you. From the youngest to the oldest, I pray that your hand of protection would cover them from any hurt, harm, or danger. I pray that your favor would rest on their lives. Provide for them and meet every need. I pray that any dysfunction, ill-will, or residual anger/frustration from past or current events be rooted out and resolved. I pray for unity in the midst of storms, compassion in moments of impatience, and wisdom in all that we do. Help us to love one another, support one another, and encourage one another even when we are not inclined to do so. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Fr. Rich Jakubik