This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and it is as good time to stop and reflect on the meaning of the Christian Family. In past times the family unit consisted of the Mother and Father and the children and these days the family unit consists of maybe one parent and now we have the same sex marriages which are a recent and maybe a not so good thing. We stop and remember exactly what the Christian family should mean for us who are people of Faith.
This Sunday, 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 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 his wife and mother of Jesus. Jesus grew in holiness and in knowledge of God’s will in the same ordinary ways that families do in our day. We also remember the care that Mary and Joseph gave to Jesus. We recognize the sacrifice they made for their son, in the same way as we recognize the sacrifices our parents made for us and many more are making for their children today in our I want I get world. As the world continues to change so too the idea of what Marriage and the family means is constantly under fire. More and more we see single parent families and now we have the so-called equality agenda which is challenging the Christian concept of Marriage by its promotion of same sex marriages which by their definition are wrong.
For us who have come together to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the feast is a reminder of all that Christ has meant to us, and all that he continues to mean to us. We came into his presence and company on the day we were led into the House of God to be baptised. We have met him many times since. For example, in the guidance protection, the goodness and kindness, and the love and support, of our parents! In the friendship of many other family members and of many other significant people in our lives! And in things that have happened to us good and not so good! We have also met Christ in the sacraments we have celebrated, and especially those of Reconciliation, Eucharist, Anointing, Marriage and for some ordination to holy orders.
In this Sundays Gospel reading Simeon makes his prophecy about Christ’s destiny and as it says, ‘the child’s father and mother stood there wondering about him. Every parent wonders about their children. Every parent is full of hope for their children. Over a period of time this might turn in to fear and anxiety, but the fundamental feeling of hope is still there. We hope that everything will turn out well for them; we hope that they will make a success of life; we hope that they will be safe and keep out of trouble; we hope that they will be happy.
As we think about family life as we knew it when we were growing and what it is now we pray that the great ideal of the Family, that is the Father Mother with their children will continue to be cherished and not diminished.