Sirach 3: 2 – 6, 12 – 14; Collosians 3: 12 – 21; Gospel Luke 2: 41-52
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 has us jump ahead twelve years after Bethlehem and tells of Jesus, Mary and Joseph making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. The caravan of pilgrims is returning to Nazareth and Mary and Joseph both assume that Jesus is somewhere in the caravan with friends and relatives. After spending a day without success of trying to locate him, Joseph and Mary return to Jerusalem where they searched for three days before finding him in the Temple. Joseph and Mary were looking for and worrying about Jesus for four days. It’s easy to imagine the worry and anguish that built up within them as each hour of unsuccessful searching passed by. When they find Jesus, and Mary asks him, why he stayed behind, his response that he must be in his Father’s house, reveals to us again his identity of being not only fully human and the son of Mary and Joseph, but also fully divine and the Son of God. Jesus is a twelve year old boy, who learned a lesson about how his actions affect Mary and Joseph. He returned with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them.
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 not knowing the whereabouts of their child, if even for a brief period of time? Whether the child unintentionally wandered off or intentionally ran away, the emotions that touch a parent’s heart are the same. What adolescent has not thought that they were old enough to exert the authority to make their own decisions, whether out of ignorance and without malice, or out of defiance? These are situations that almost every family experiences 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, but not the perfect family. Like all families 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.