Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Family

1. The family is the way of the Church. (John Paul II) It is the common experience of everyone of every vocation. It is the basic unit of society. The family, as intended by God, consists of mother, father, and child or children, and cannot really be replaced by other associations or groups that would like to be considered families. The family is the ordinary means by which God intended to increase the human race, to protect and nurture the weak, and develop each person into maturity. Those whose family is incomplete or not functioning properly, and those who have no family experience pain and loss because of their lack.
2. The family so important that God used it as the means of bringing salvation to the world. For the Son of God became part of the human family. Jesus did not just take flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary and became Man, but He entered into the experience of the family with a Mother and a Father. Although it is true that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, he exercised the authority and care of Jesus as his son, in accord with God’s plan Even Holy Scripture calls Joseph the father of Jesus for this reason.
3. The home life of the Holy Family was necessary for Jesus to become who He really was- not only the Son of God from all eternity, but the Son of Man. When Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, at that moment. He became fully human in every way, just like us. But as a human being Jesus had to grow and be nurtured (see Luke 2:40). It was in His family that Jesus learned how to talk, how to read, how to work, how to pray, probably even how to teach. In the family Jesus learned to put on, as Saint Paul says, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13). It might seem to us that they had it easy. Jesus and Mary had no sin, and Joseph was a righteous man. But their relatives and neighbors were not preserved from sin. And even despite the help of God they still had to go through the difficulties of life- illness, teething, teenage years. Furthermore, they had to escape to Egypt for a few years because Herod was trying to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13-14).
4. Though we do not hear much about Saint Joseph in the Bible, it was from him that Jesus learned how to be a man. As Blessed as Mary is, there are things that one must get from one’s father. It is said that a father is the one to teach his children how to say “no.” Such as no I will not give into the temptation to turn the stones into bread (see Matthew 4:3-4) or no, I will not call down fire to destroy the Samaritan city (see Luke 9:54-55) or no, I will not let one of my followers be arrested with me, it is not their time (see John 18:8-9).
5. Most of the life of the Holy Family remains hidden from our view (from the point of view of Scripture). But there are stories about the Holy Family's activities that give us a glimpse of what was important to them.
6. Saint Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph completed all the prescriptions of the Law with regard to Jesus (Luke 2:39). That means on the eight day after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had Jesus circumcised. In doing so, they ensured that Jesus the man was part of the covenant family that God had established with Abraham. At the same time, they were renewing their commitment to the Lord in having their child brought into the covenant. Had they failed to do so, they would have cut themselves off from God. Furthermore, in accordance with the Law, they offered the sacrifice of two turtle doves (see Luke 2:22-40). This redemption was an acknowledgment that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and from the death of their firstborn sons in the final plague. Their son was to be consecrated to God entirely.
7. Joseph and Mary took their responsibility for the spiritual growth of Jesus as a member of the chosen people seriously. Joseph not only cared for the material needs of the family, but saw to it that they took the time to practice their religion, he did not dump that job off on Mary- and they fulfilled their religion, not merely out of a sense of obligation, but because they loved God. How else do you explain Mary and Joseph’s submission to the will of God although it was highly inconvenient for them? It was inconvenient for Mary to conceive a child before she was married. It was inconvenient for Joseph to marry a woman who had a child which was not his own. Yet they obeyed God out of love.
8. A family in which God is in the center, in which prayer, worship and the practice of religion is most important, that family is going to mirror the Holiness of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. On the other hand, the family for whom the worship of God is something you do occasionally, or when there is nothing better to do- those families are going to struggle with holiness- not only because their priorities are misplaced, but because they withhold from themselves God’s help. They are like children who refuse to come to the dinner table to eat, but who constantly complain of being hungry.
9. Of course in the New Covenant, the rituals are different. We do not circumcise, but we baptize to enter the Covenant Family of God. That is why we baptize infants. Who should wait to be part of God’s family? The sacrifice which we offer is the one commanded by Jesus when He said do this in memory of me (see Luke 22:19) - that is, the Eucharist. It is the sacrifice of Jesus Himself which establishes the New Covenant and consecrates us to God the Father.
10. The family life of Jesus with Mary and Joseph was crucial to the plan of salvation. Sin came into the world through disobedience. Jesus conquered sin through humbling Himself. Jesus’ obedience is not only the model that we must follow, but it is the source of the grace that makes it possible for us to be Holy.
11. Family is what being Catholic is all about. In our baptism we entered the family covenant with God. We received Mary for our mother and Saint Joseph for our foster father. As Joseph was given authority over the household of God in order to care for Jesus and Mary, so does he continue to care for the family of God the Church. And in the sacraments that spiritual family is increased, fed, strengthened, reconciled, and perfected. But although we are given the faith by the free gift of God, it is in and through the natural family that we really receive the faith. I could baptize many people, but if their families do not keep their promises, the children could be lost. The family is the way of the Church. And the success of our human families is dependent on how they reflect the holiness of the Holy Family.
12. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph pray for us.

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