(Audio recorded live, 26 December 2021)
Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14; Ps. 128; Col. 3:12-17; Lk. 2:41-52
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And since this is a time of year we seek to be close to family, it is good for us to reflect upon the ways in which today’s feast provides us with wisdom to guide us in our own families.
The Book of Sirach speaks about the proper relationship between father, mother, and children. God sets a father in honor over his children. This is especially the case when the father of the house keeps the commandments. The children cannot help but honor him who honors God. He then gives his wife authority over their children. In the ancient world, it was not uncommon for the husband to be away from home for extended periods of time, so wives were responsible for raising and educating their children. It’s not so different, even today. Children honor the wisdom of both their parents, and both have much to teach their children about living a good life.
St. Paul reminds the Colossians to “[p]ut on…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.” This is good advice for any community, and especially good advice for any family. If everyone could learn to live with such love and forgiveness, just think of how much stronger our families would be. It has to start somewhere, and the Holy Family is the model God gave us all to follow.
And while the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is presented as the model for how we ought to live out our family life, we hear in today’s gospel that even they had their share of struggles. We heard early on in the gospel of Matthew how Joseph was warned in a dream to take his wife and the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. We heard today, in the gospel of Luke, how Mary and Joseph had lost the boy Jesus for three days. Imagine that. They lost the Savior of the world! That does not seem like a model of holiness, but that’s just it. Where would any of us be without Jesus in our life? And so, realizing their mistake, Mary and Joseph went searching throughout Jerusalem for Jesus. And when they found him, he told them that he must be in his Father’s house. This is at one and the same time an assertion of who Jesus’ true Father is, but also where he can be found. This gospel passage is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection, and while Mary and Joseph found Jesus in life, those who are seeking him today, will find him in his Father’s house, that is to say, in heaven.
The Church teaches that our earthly liturgy connects to the liturgy of eternal praise in heaven. In the communion of saints, we are united in this single act of worship. We are united in the one sacrifice of Christ, whose body and blood were given for us.
Even though the Holy Family was not perfect, it was the family Jesus was born into. No family is perfect. The gospel tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus said to them. But, Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart. This is an indication of the prayer life of the Blessed Mother—an example for us all.
Once Mary and Joseph found Jesus, he remained obedient to them as he grew in wisdom, age, and favor before God and man. He submitted himself to an imperfect family so he could show us the way to perfection in heaven. Jesus models for all children the proper disposition they should have towards their parents. By honoring our parents, we too, grow in wisdom, age, and favor before God and man. Joseph, for his part, remained faithful to his role as the earthly father of Jesus.
So, as we reflect on the humility of Jesus, who became one with us in our lowliness, let us also rejoice in the path he has invited us all to follow. And may the communion we share as the extended family of the Church, strengthen our resolve to be good examples for one another, to live a life of holiness and love, modeled on the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.