Feast of the Holy Family
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
The Sunday within the eight day celebration of Christmas is always dedicated to the Holy Family. If truth be told, we know very little about the Holy Family, for all we are certain of is revealed to us in the pages of Scripture where the family references are scarce. Nevertheless, we can safely draw some fair conclusions from the Scriptures, guarding against the erroneous exaggerations which mark the Apocryphal gospel stories about the Holy Family.
The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was a family of great faith. Not only is this evidenced in the responses of Joseph and Mary to God’s angelic messengers, but our gospel passage from Luke for this Sunday clearly shows the desire of the parents to fulfill the requirements of the Law, even when this might be considered inconvenient. Indeed, it is safe to assume that our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians is shared with us today because it describes the qualities which distinguished the lives of Mary and Joseph: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” It is not so much that because they were holy Mary and Joseph practiced the virtues spoken of by Paul, but rather it is their practice of virtue which is the evidence of the holiness we commemorate today.
If the Holy Family is to be for us a model of what we are all called to be, then the holiness we seek should not be looked for in the mere structure of the father-mother-son relationship. Rather the holiness is to be found in the practice of virtue. It is in being kind, and compassionate, and forgiving, and grateful, and humble, that we discover the holiness that all Christians are called to. There is a real danger in recognizing the perfection of the Holy Family, for living in the modern world it might cause us terminal discouragement. There is no way that our oftentimes dysfunctional and disjointed families could ever measure up.
Although structurally different, our varied families need to see in the Holy Family a model which is within reach, in spite of how different or broken our families might be. Focusing our attention on the practice of virtue, and not on a structure that we will never fully reflect, delivers the possibility of our diverse families deserving the adjective “holy.” The holiest of families, Jesus/Mary/Joseph, practiced their virtue in the most difficult of circumstances. From Bethlehem to Calvary, through all the challenges that people face when they desire to cooperate with God’s plan for them, the Holy Family never stopped leading virtuous lives. May our families, whatever they might look like, be contagious examples of virtue, leading others to know that we are Christian by our love, our compassion, our kindness, our forgiveness, our gratitude.
Sent from my iPad