Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we know from our Advent journey God had very different plans then what Mary and Joseph had planned for their life together. Thankfully both Mary and Joseph had the faith and courage to believe that God would guide them as they took on the role of Mother and Step-Father of the Son of God. Their ninety-mile trip to Bethlehem was a test of endurance – but they never gave up and always found comfort in God. When Jesus was born and He was in danger due to Herod, it was an angel of the Lord that appeared in a dream to Joseph advising him to “take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.”
Mary responded with love and care for her family and did so without questioning how she would be able to care for the Son of God. She simply accepted her place in God’s salvation plan and was happy to be the mother of Jesus. She loved Jesus, she cared for Him and ensured that all his earthly needs were taken care of.
Joseph also responded with love and concern for his family and never questioned the directions he received from the Lord’s angels. Joseph accepted his role as step-father to Jesus and loved Him and protected Him and taught Him all he needed to know – until such time that Jesus’ public ministry would begin. Joseph also cared for Mary and ensured that both Jesus and Mary were safe and that their basic necessities were provided for.
The first reading from the book of Sirach sets the tone for the feast of the Holy Family. By drawing attention to the loving relationships that should permeate every family. The commandment “Honor your father and your mother” is the foundation for this reflection from Sirach. Love for parents continues throughout life and brings with it the reward of many blessings.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians focuses on family life. Paul reminds us of our identify as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” We are called to live out our identity in all relationships especially within the family. Paul uses a beautiful analogy: just as we consciously select our clothes every day, so we should consciously clothe ourselves daily with the virtues inspired by Jesus – “compassion, kindness, humility.”
The Gospel offers a beautiful narrative that reflects the life of the Holy Family. The Son of God entered the human family as a helpless child, cared for by a loving family. Joseph and Mary immediately exercise their role as protectors of their child amid dire circumstances. They become refugees, escaping the tyranny of King Herod, who had ordered the death of their child.
Just as Joseph of the Old Testament went to Egypt to save his family from starvation; so, Joseph in the New Testament takes his family to Egypt under God’s inspiration to save them. Once King Herod died, God brings the Holy Family back from Egypt to safety in Nazareth. Joseph and Mary illustrate the primary role of every parent: to trust in God’s guidance as they care for and protect their child.
At Home with the Word
Like all godly Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary raised the child Jesus in the reverence and wisdom of the Lord. Joseph was given a unique task as the guardian and protector of Mary and of Jesus. What can we learn from the example and witness of Joseph? Joseph is a man of God, a man of unquestioning obedience and willing service. He is a man of prayer and a man of God's word. Through faith he recognized the hand of God in the mystery of the Incarnation - the Son of God taking on flesh as the son of the virgin Mary.
Joseph is a man of action, diligent in the care of his family and ready to do the Lord's bidding. Joseph fearlessly set aside his own plans when God called him to "take to the road" and to leave his familiar surroundings - his home, friends and relatives, and the security of his livelihood in order to pursue a hidden mission God entrusted to him as the guardian of the newborn King.
God has a plan for each one of us. With the plan God gives grace and the assurance of his guiding hand and care. Do you trust your heavenly Father for his plan for your life? Are you willing to sacrifice your own plans for the sake of God's plan? Are you willing to give God unquestioning service and to pursue whatever mission he gives you? Laudate
In an address that Pope Paul VI gave in early 1964 he said that “Nazareth served as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character – exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings: in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.”
This is still true today. We need to follow the example of the Holy Family – so our children and grandkids will know what it is to be loved and learn to share with others. They need to know how to read the Sacred Scriptures and grow their own relationship with God. They need to learn that it is their needs and not their wants that should be satisfied.
With the Holy Family as our guide and our desire to have our family be more like them, we might be able to shift the tide from a culture of death to a culture of life. Unfortunately, more and more children are being raised by social media, video games and the internet. This leads to adults who have missed out on the love and caring of a family. And the next generation of children being raised by parents that have been desensitized to a culture of life and having a relationship with God.
Now more than ever we Christian adults need to take back our families. Through Sacred Scripture, prayer, your church community and time spent talking with God – we have everything needed to introduce a culture of life to our children and grandkids. What are we waiting for?
Over two thousand years ago Mary and Joseph had the faith and courage to accept their role as the parents of Jesus – the Son of God. They went against the culture of their time. They risked everything to follow God’s commands for them and look how things turned out for them. Jesus is the savior of the world. Mary is the mother of the Church. Joseph is the revered step-father of the Son of God.
It is fitting that we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph today. But let us not make this a one-hour celebration – instead let us make this a lifelong celebration. A celebration where we bring back the values of quality family time together each day. Loving each other, laughing together, eating together, reading the Sacred Scriptures and praying together.
Let us take back our families from social media forces and let us create a culture of life again. Just like the culture of life that was created so many years ago by Mary and Joseph when they said yes to God and allowed Him to use them as instruments to bring us the Savior of the world – Jesus Christ.
"Lord Jesus, make me a faithful servant of your word and guardian of your truth. Help me to obey you willingly, like Joseph and Mary, with unquestioning trust and with joyful hope." Amen.