Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

How can any family consider realistically model themselves on the Holy Family?” That’s a good question, and perhaps one that has come to your minds. I think it would help if we consider what the word, “Holy” means. To be holy means to be separate for the Lord. Our families can be separate for the Lord, our families can be holy. How? Here are three suggestions for our families to be holy. Actually there are just three words[1].

The first word is JOY. Families need to play together, goof around, laugh together and not take each member too seriously. Families need to find ways to laugh together, whether it’s the beach, a board game, a pillow fight, what have you. Joy is not a part time business for a Holy Family. The famous author C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” We are called to be joyful because the one who brought joy to the world is present in our homes.

The second word is TIME. If a little child could spell love, he or she would spell it this way, t-i-m-e. Jesus only spent the last three of his thirty-three years serving people. The first thirty were focused entirely on his family. Based on their culture, Mary and Joseph started sharing scripture with Jesus when he was five, the Mishna or oral tradition at age ten, and the commandments and law at age thirteen, Joseph would have taught Jesus his trade, that of a carpenter. Jesus would have had to learn how to use an axe, hammer, chissel and saw. Joseph also taught him the difference between various woods, acacia, cedar, cypress, pine, and sycamore. This all took time. Mary and Joseph would have spent time with their child out of love for him.

Our families need to do this to be holy families. We have to stop crowding our day with tasks that take us outside of the home. We have to limit the number of activities we let the kids be involved in. The greatest need a child has is to spend time with his or her parents.

The third word is PRAYER. The ancient Jewish family would recite the prayer of Eighteen Benedictions three times each day. The lesson was that the family must always look to the God the Father, praising Him. Our families need to be families of prayer. Grace before meals and bed-time prayers are a minimum. Even better than the bed-time prayers are prayers together as a family every evening.

None of our families are ideal families, but all of our families can be Holy Families.

The readings for this Sunday present some aspects of a Christian home. The first reading from Sirach says that children need to respect their parents. At first it refers to young children as it notes that mothers and fathers have their authority from God. Then it refers to older children when it says that children should take care of their parents when they age. Little children learn respect for their parents from the respect they see their parents giving their grandparents. I have always believed that the way you treat your parents will be the way your children will treat you. If your relations with your parents are motivated by respect and love, and are evident in your kindness to them, your children will have learned this aspect of Christianity and will treat you the same way as your years mount.

The second reading deals with the interrelationships of the family. Paul tells the Colossians and us to deal with each other out of kindness, to be patient with each other, to forgive each other continually, not to let out pride determine what we say and do to each other. If we strive to live this way, than as a family we can pray together not just in Church, but in every aspect of our lives. "Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord." Paul goes on to mention the roles of a family in his epoch. At that time the equality of women was not recognized. In the Roman empire women were seen as property that needed to be protected by their fathers and their husbands. It would be rare that a woman would be given the respect due to every individual. That's why we have the phrase, wives be submissive to your husbands. Closely followed by husbands love your wives. In our society, with the recognition that most roles in a family have nothing to do with gender, the real meaning of this part of Colossians us that husbands and wives must respect each other. This same line of thought continues with children being told to respect their parents, and parents being told not to nag, to continually find fault, with their children.

It used to be fashionable for the American media to claim that the family is no longer a viable unit. Now, it claims, their has been a resurgence of family and family values. This is all hogwash. The family has and will remain strong as long as there are people of faith, people like you people here, who are doing their best to make the love of God real in their homes. Today we pray for all our families.

May your home be a little church, displaying your reverence for the presence of the Lord in the way you care for each other. May your families be Holy Families.

[1] Sunday 30th December, 2007 Holy Family. Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14. Happy are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways-Ps 127(128):1-5. Colossians 3:12-21. Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.

Ilustration: The Holy Family and other representations of the childhood of Christ occur frequently in Rembrandt's art during the 1640s. Domestic happiness and intimacy are their dominate mood.
This representation at the Hermitage glows with human warmth; small details contribute to this effect. A burst of divine light accompanies the angels who invade the chamber to witness the scene from the everyday life of the Holy Family. The tenderness of the young mother's movement accords with the deep, warm colours, among which the cherry-red of her skirt is the strongest accent.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Holy Family with Angels (1645), Oil on canvas, 117 x 91 cm, The Hermitage (St. Petersburg).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris