Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family

1. When God sent His Son to be born of woman and become a human being, He was sent to live and grow in a human family. Although Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit and it was through Mary alone that Jesus received the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not advance in wisdom, and age, and favor (Luke 2:52) without growing up in a family. That is, Jesus lived and grew in a family with a mother and a father who were committed to one another for each others’ good and the good of the child.
2. There are those who might argue that the presence of Saint Joseph was largely unnecessary except for cultural reasons. A servant or slave could have just as easily protected Mary and Jesus from the dangers on the road to Egypt. They might muse that Mary could have been the successful carpenter/housebuilder breadwinner head of household for Jesus if it had not been the oppressive times of the past. I am not an expert in history but I suspect that there were women raising their sons all alone even back then. A husband might have been a soldier or sea merchant, or he might have died. Saint Joseph himself was going to divorce Mary quietly and let her be alone until the angel intervened in his dream and told him to accept and care for Mary and raise her child Jesus as his own son. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a family because the Son of God needed both mother and father to grow into his full manhood. There is a wealth of proof that each person needs a mother and a father- not just in the biological sense, but to be mothered by a woman and fathered by a man. When someone grows up with one of those absent, they do not receive have everything which they need. Furthermore, Mary and Joseph needed Jesus to be the holy woman and man that God had chosen them to be. After all, Jesus is the Savior.
3. The Church promotes this Feast of the Holy Family to remind us of the importance of the family and to help us counteract those forces or circumstances which can harm the family. It is important to reiterate that each person needs both mother and father active and interested and concerned and teaching them in their lives, and many of our present problems are the result of the failure of fathers and mothers giving their children what they need, and the failure of children to receive it. Of course, parents desire what is good and best for their children. Often times, the failure to give all they should is a consequence of not having received it themselves. Thanks be to God it is never too late to receive the blessing of a father and mother, even if those roles have to be completed by another man or woman.
4. The Holy Scriptures present to us the qualities of a good family life. It seems that first of all there should be committment to the others in mutual and lasting fidelity for their ultimate good. This committment begins with the husband and wife and from them flows to the children. Selfishness has no place, and causes the selfish person to lose far more than they gain by self-promotion.
5. Saint Paul exhorted the Colossians to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13a). This meekness and humility does not mean that there is no authority or discipline in the family. Jesus humbly obeyed Mary and Joseph, while Mary and Joseph in turn had to guide Jesus as He grew. Forgiveness is a key to faithfulness. Even among people who want to love another there are misunderstandings. Mary and Joseph did not understand why Jesus was in the Temple talking to the experts in the Law. But through compassion and bearing with one another, the Holy Family was the place that made Jesus the Man that He was and gave Mary and Joseph the Holiness to be what God has called them for us- Mother of Christians and Patron of the Church.
6. Over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14). The love which the Holy Family put on was the love through which Jesus offered Himself on the Cross for our sins. Really if I was going to describe the behavior/ attitude of any family working for holiness that is what it is: being Christ to one another, seeing Christ in one another. Being Christ is not being a weakling or afraid. Rather, being Christ is standing up for the truth but loving others in spite of their weaknesses or sins. Being Christ is humbly accepting the role that God has given us but serving Him with a joyful heart and a face shining with confidence. Jesus did not accept the Cross as a man condemned. Rather He stretched out His own arms to offer the sacrifice of His body to save us.
7. There is another aspect of the Holy Family to which we ought to pay attention. Scripture does not contain any more stories about Jesus’ youth and education. It is silent. It would be foolish for us to think that nothing worthwhile happened. But what does the silence tell us? For one thing, it tells us that it was in the ordinariness of the life of the Holy Family that Jesus grew in age and grace. It is the same ordinariness that we all can share. The family is rightly called “the Domestic Church” because it is in the family that we learn how to love God and love one another.
8. For another thing, silence is essential to develop a listening heart. It is true that the Holy Family benefitted in having God Himself for the child. But if Mary and Joseph had not spent time with Jesus and spent time reflecting on the meaning of Jesus in their lives, it would have all been a waste for them. Believe it or not, Jesus is already in your family. He has promised to be wherever two or three gathered in His name. His Spirit is present in those Baptized into His Body the Church. But we have to get still to recognize Him. And we all need quiet to hear His voice.

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