THE HOLY FAMILY
This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family which is the name of the parish in where I live. Just four days ago we celebrated the birth of a tiny Baby, surrounded by the ethereal angel choir, greeted with awe and adoration. Today, we commemorate a family in deep stress because their Son is seen as a threat to a jealous king: Joseph and Mary are running for their lives from Herod the Great. Tradition says that after three years in exile, another angel informs Joseph that Herod the Great is dead. The Holy Family returns to their homeland, not to Bethlehem, since the new King Archelaus who reigns in his father’s place is also a cruel and barbaric ruler. Joseph brings Mary and Jesus to his native town of Nazareth in Galilee. There, they lived a simple ordinary life, Joseph as a carpenter, and Mary as a housewife and mother. Jesus grew in holiness and in knowledge of God’s will in the same ordinary ways that families do in our day. How their lives resemble the modern scene in Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey as well as in other countries as thousands of Syrian refugee families struggle to stay unified! The scene is repeated in many other countries as well. Families on the run with a few possessions loaded onto a tractor and cart, or on foot, move out of their native land to seek refuge wherever they will be tolerated. Most homes are abandoned and will probably be looted and vandalized. It may never be possible for these people to return to their homelands. Add to this the thousands of broken families, broken by divorce, , or abandonment by one or the other parent, and we may well wonder what is “normal” for the word “family.” Pope Francis is deeply concerned with these threats to family life. He has started the process for an extraordinary synod of Bishops to meet in 2015 to determine how the Church may help remedy the current situation.
St. Paul, in Colossians, gives families, both our own individual families, and the wider family of the Church, a surefire formula for success. We are to act with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” Who would ever want to escape — whether Dad, Mom, or teenager — from such a happy home?
As we think about the Holy Family we remember the care that Mary and Joseph gave to Jesus. We recognize the sacrifice they made for Jesus, in the same way as we recognize the many sacrifices our own parents made for us and many more are making for their children today in our I want what I want and I get what I want world. Our families would find the disagreements, stressful relationships, and resentments that spoil the joy of family harmony so much easier to solve by imitating the faith and loving trust of the Holy Family.
“Lord Jesus, you came to restore us to unity with the Father in heaven. Where there is division, bring healing and pardon. May all peoples and families find peace, wholeness, and unity in you, the Prince of Peace and Saviour of the world.”