This celebration of the Holy Family, just a few days after Christmas, is one that puts the coming of Christ into an important context for us. When God sent the Redeemer he did not mysteriously appear from nowhere, nor did he did drop down to earth from Heaven. The Redeemer is God himself, the second person of the Trinity. This second person is also the Word of God which is the creating power that made all of creation. In the Prologue of John’s Gospel we are told that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” God himself as second person of the Trinity, is the Divine Word, who took on flesh and was born into the world just like those who he came to re-create. We have just celebrated his birth to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, and today we celebrate how they truly were a family.
The Gospel takes place when Jesus is a baby. King Herod heard from the Magi that a king was born and they were seeking him to pay him homage. From their descriptions Herod determined that this child was less than two years old, and Herod ordered that all males under the age of two should be killed, with the hope that this new born king would be killed. This tragedy which showed a total disrespect for Human Life has been looked upon for millenniums as a barbaric act of genocide. Unfortunately, we live at a time in which various government officials are advocating and supporting laws that allow the killing of children in the womb up until birth, during birth through partial birth abortions, and even after birth. This barbarism of the past continues to be with us and we need to pray for the respect for life and to speak about this horror. Meanwhile, in the Gospel, an angel appeared to Joseph to warn him of this and to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt where Jesus would be safe. Joseph, the faithful, quiet husband and father, listens to the angel and they flee to Egypt.
The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that this family, comprised of Mary, who was conceived and remained without sin, Joseph, the model of faith and justice, and Jesus, fully human and fully divine, were indeed human. What parent cannot identify with the worry, anxiety and even fear that comes from knowing their child is in danger of being put to death. This worry was no doubt on both Joseph and Mary as they fled to Egypt and remained with Mary as the “sword that would pierce her heart” until she stood beneath the cross. Regardless of what possible danger a child is in the emotions that touch a parent’s heart are the same. Almost every family experiences these situations in one way or another.
This Feast of the Holy Family presents us with two important reminders that can help us in our faith. The first is that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were the Holy Family, and they had their difficult moments. We should not hesitate to take our own family situations to the Holy Family and know that they understand and help us through their intercession and intervention. The second point is that each family is called to be a Holy Family. We grow in holiness by growing in unconditional love for one another, praying for one another, and praying for each other. As Servant of God taught us, Fr. Patrick Peyton taught us, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.