The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph [B]
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14 — Colossians 3:12-21 — Luke 2:22-40
December 30, 2011
Despite the fact that stores are now selling candy for Valentine’s day, Christmas is not actually over: Christmas does not last only one day, and Christmas is not only a celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas is a season which begins on December 25 and lasts until early January. This Christmas season celebrates several mysteries, the first of which is Jesus’ birth. Today we celebrate the second mystery of Christmas, the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The Church calls us to meditate on the Holy Family of Nazareth. In doing so, we realize that, just as celebrating Jesus’ birth helps us reverence how human life is created in the Image of God, so our celebration of the Holy Family helps us reverence the human family as an image of the Church.
For many of us, the past week has presented us opportunities to be with members of our families. And no matter what difficulties might exist within our families, time spent together helps us realize one of the facts that is rejected by the world in which we live, but preached as Truth by the Church: the fact that the family is the basis of all social life. The family teaches us “how to be with others”.
Those of us who are middle-aged often fall prey to the habit of thinking that what we do for others or give to others is what matters most. But those who have many years of life under their belts are like those who have very few years of life: they recognize that time spent with others is of much greater value than things given to others.
Spending time together on a regular basis may not seem to amount to much, but when that foundation is there, the love and care which comes out of such time supports them when they end up in a crisis, as all families occasionally do. The Holy Family, still weary from their journey to Bethlehem, and weary from their search through Bethlehem to find suitable lodging, were forced after Christ’s birth to flee their country to the foreign land of Egypt, out of fear for Jesus’ life, only the first of many sorrows for the Holy Family that was predicted by Simeon in today’s gospel passage.
The habits of the Holy Family must be the habits of our own families. If we truly care for the members of our family, we are willing to both pray for each other’s well-being, and we are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep each other safe from the dangers of the world.
After the great sacrifices made during his infancy, Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth under the care of his foster father, Saint Joseph, and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This life was not spectacular: from the time he was a baby to the time he was thirty years old, we know of only one thing that happened to Jesus: Mary and Joseph finding him in the temple. By and large, the first thirty years of Jesus’ life were simple ones in which his mother and foster father made ordinary sacrifices for Jesus’ well-being, day after day. The Holy Family prayed together as a devout Jewish family, and they took the steps necessary to care for one another. When Saint Joseph died, Mary and her son carried on alone. Yet no matter what God the Father asked of them, they prayed and acted together according to His Will.
Today God presents the Holy Family as a treasure. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not only holy themselves: they help us to be holy. We all know that our world is troubled, and that our country is troubled. We don’t have to dwell on that. But the cure is right here before us: to strengthen the family, to build up the family, and to improve family life through God, which builds up in turn the life of our community, country, and world.
Your home is a treasure. The home is “the domestic church,” “the school of discipleship,” where to live in peace, a person has to learn how to be humble and how to serve the needs of others, the same virtues which make a person a good citizen, and a good follower of Jesus.
As the Holy Family went to pray in the Temple, all of our families must together seek out God by worshipping at Mass and celebrating all the sacraments together. In the sacraments, most especially through Christ’s very Body and Blood, our families are strengthened by Christ and bound together. As we offer up our own sacrifices now with Christ, let our prayer be that we may imitate Him: to know the needs of others with the Wisdom of God, and to serve the needs of others with the Love of God.