Feast of the Holy Family 2017

            For many of us, the Christmas season afforded us with many opportunities to spend time with our families. If your family is anything like mine, there were moments over the past few weeks which reminds us that every family is dysfunctional. Yet no matter what difficulties exist in our families, our time with them should remind us of the blessing that they truly are. Regardless of their dysfunction there is something sacred about family. You see God could have come into the world anyway He wanted; He could have come as the child of a great king or already grown and living on his own, He chose to enter this world in the same manner as every other person, through a family. So today, as we continue our celebration of Christmas and recover from the craziness of the Christmas season, we are invited to gaze upon the manger and reflect on Jesus’ family, the Holy Family.

            The Gospels only give us a small glimpse into the life of the Holy Family, yet those few simple verses show us the perfect model of what a family should be. While much has changed in family life since the time of Jesus, and families come in many varieties, the story of Holy Family is timeless. The story of the Holy Family is a story of a teenage woman conceiving a child, causing Joseph to anxiously plan to divorce her. It’s the story of a family forced to take up residence as foreigners and give birth to their son in a stable. A family forced to flee persecution in the far-off land of the Egyptian Empire which once held their ancestors as slaves. It is a story of parents losing their child and anxiously searching for him, a story of a son losing his father at a young age, a story of a widowed mother watching her son put to death in the cruelest manner possible and the story of a mother whose son, upon his death, giving her to be the mother of the entire human race. The story of the Holy Family is a story of less than ideal circumstances, difficulties, pain and suffering, but most importantly a story of holiness. A story of “the obedience that makes us available where God calls us to be, the obedience that does not rely on our own greatness, but allows God to bestow His greatness upon us and knows that only in service and self-surrender can we truly find ourselves.”[1]

            Every family is called to imitate the Holy Family’s yes to God, for “without a yes to God, noting can mature in a person’s life.”[2] Though life may throw many difficulties at our families, the Holy Family shows us that “our first step to sanctity is realizing that nothing in life is worth so much as our becoming saints.”[3] In short, our families must provide an atmosphere where we, like Jesus, can grow in wisdom and strength, where we can grow into saints.

            The Bible’s account of the Holy Family does not give us a concrete teaching on how to make our families holy, but rather gives us a witness of how the Holy Family centered their life on God and invites us to imitate their holiness in our own way. At the heart of the Holy Family is love. First the love of God and secondly the love of others. The core of their family life was the daily regimen of morning, evening and night prayers, the annual pilgrimages to the temple, and instruction in God’s sacred law. If we want to imitate the Holy Family, prayer must be the ground upon which we base our day and not just something we add into our day. Does your family take time for daily prayer?

Prayer can start as simply as gathering before bed or even using the drive to and from school to pray. That prayer can be as simple as praying a decade of the rosary, reading the Bible together, or even taking turns as each member offers a prayer of thanksgiving for something good that happened that day or a prayer of petition for some specific need. What is it going to be for your family?

            Friends, the season of Christmas draws our attention to the Holy Family. Their witness reminds us that despite the varying difficulties and changing needs of families, the goal remains the same; to accompany each other in love and self-sacrifice on this earthly pilgrimage towards the eternal city of heaven. So that family gathered in the manger beg us to ask the question “how is my family working to lead each other to heaven.”

[1] Joseph CardinalRatzinger, Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 367.

[2] Wilfrid Stinssen, Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011. pg. 47.

[3] Albert Joseph Mary Shamon, Three Steps to Sanctity. Oak Lawn: CMJ Marian Publishers and Distributers (1993). pg. 1

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