Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (A),

Since we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let’s look a little closer at the members of this family and their relationship.

We begin with Joseph. In the infancy narratives of the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph develops from someone who is inclined to prevent the family from forming to someone who does everything possible to keep the Holy Family together. He could have sent his pregnant betrothed away to have her baby out of the scrutiny of the neighbors at Nazareth. He probably would never see her again or ever meet the child, but he has the faith to trust God and form a family with Mary and the coming child. As an expectant father, he cares for Mary, and joins her in the joy of the birth of the child whom he promptly adopts by naming the baby, Jesus. When danger threatens the life of the child, he doesn’t leave the family to protect himself, nor does he send Mary and the baby away to fend for themselves. He takes them to Egypt, and then, keeping the family together, returns with them from Egypt to Nazareth. Even though many of the incidents of the infancy narrative in both Matthew and Luke are meant to show that Jesus is the prophet greater the Moses who will deliver God’s people from evil just as Moses delivered them from Egypt, the fact is that it is the family, not just the baby, that Joseph is presented as protecting and support[1].

During her pregnancy Mary is, like all women, a mother in waiting. After Jesus’ birth, though, she remains in many ways a mother-in-waiting. St. Luke says that Mary ponders in her heart the events that involve her child. She is present during the Lord’s ministry waiting and watching to see what would take place. She is present standing beneath the cross, not breaking down, but standing, as the Lord entrusts John, and all of us, to her.

Mary’s role in the Holy Family is, as all mothers, to nurture. Leonardo Da Vinci joined so many of the famous painters of the faith in presenting the nursing Madonna. That Jesus should be fed by his mother demonstrates both the humanity of the God Made Man and the dignity of the one who was chosen to be his mother. But Mary is not, as some would like to say, a single mother. She fills her place in the Holy Family depending on Joseph to protect and care for the family.

Jesus is the center of the Holy Family. All children have the right to be the center of their families. As an infant and a child he depends on his mother and father and is subject to them. He also knows that their every move will be for his care and concern.  His is the Love that makes the Holy Family holy even before his human nature is able to declare to them and the world that he is Love Incarnate.

So here we have the Holy Family as a model. The Father fights against anything in the world that would destroy his family. The mother creates the home and nurtures the family. The child is the love around which the family revolves.

Is it so unrealistic then, for the Church to offer the Holy Family as a model to all our families? Well, perhaps the roles of mother and father may merge, but the basic action of being a family of love revolving around the child or, in many of your cases, the children, is quite realistic.  Like Joseph, our fathers, along with their wives, must protect their families from the forces of the world that would destroy the family.  Herod might not be sending the troops to kill all the newborns, but the forces of evil have sent drugs, licentiousness, and materialism to kill the souls of our children. The father, along with the mother, has got to protect his child and his family.

Like Mary, our mothers, along with the husbands, must embrace their role as nurturing their children.  This is not just with physical food, but with the care to help their children learn how to seek and find the presence and sense of God in their lives. Our mothers, along with our fathers, must nurture their children with spiritual food. As the children witness their Moms demanding that they chose right over wrong, giving over selfishness, as they see their Moms, and Dads, reaching out to care for people who are hurting, the children will be fed the food that makes a Christian a following of Christ.

Our families should revolve around the love of the children. They are only yours for a brief time. They demand all your attention. Then they leave to form their own families, but because of them their Moms and Dads are better people, people who have sacrificed for them and who have thus made the love of God real for the world.

On the Feast of the Holy Family we pray that we all may hear the cries of the Infant Jesus, calling us to reverence His presence, calling all of us to the holiness that is the heart of the Catholic family ■

[1] Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (A), December 29, 2013. Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Responsorial Psalm: 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23. 

Illustration: The Madonna Litta is a late 15th-century painting of the Madonna nursing the infant Jesus which is generally attributed toLeonardo da Vinci and is displayed in the Hermitage Museum, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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