Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The family is the basic unit of society. It is no wonder why God chose to use it in His plan for the redemption of all men, women and children.
Joseph is often labeled “the forgotten saint.” This is unfortunate because he is the patron saint of the Church, and rightfully so. Just as he protected Christ, he protects Christ’s mystical body the Catholic Church.
Joseph was a carpenter by trade and taught Jesus carpentry. At first, Joseph was concerned that Mary had an affair due to her pregnancy. He wanted to secretly dissolve their union. If it wasn’t for an angel appearing to him in his dreams, he would have carried through with that plan. This showed that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1: 19-24) in that he did not want Mary to face any harsh punishment as Jewish laws called for at the time.
Mary as we know, was a virgin prior to bearing Jesus and remained a virgin afterwards. She was preserved from original sin making her the Immaculate Conception. Mary followed Jesus all throughout His years on Earth. She would be assumed into heaven and prior to this would also help spread the good news of her Son. Mary is the only human being to be free from sin. She is the model of what every human person must aspire to become – holy. Mary is given special veneration because of this which is called hyperdulia.
Jesus is the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God the Son took on flesh and became a human in all things except sin (Hebrews 4:15). As a child, Jesus was obedient to His parents. However, He always put His Father in heaven first. We see this in the account of Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:41-52) Jesus wanders off from His parent’s sight and enters the temple. In the temple, He begins speaking to the teachers, asking questions and answering questions as well. The teachers and others were surprised at His knowledge and ability to speak as a teacher Himself (Luke 2:41-52).
Mary and Joseph found Him there and were upset that He wandered off. Jesus simply replied that He was doing His Father’s business and asked why did they search for Him as if they were supposed to know what He would be up to. I recommend reading the Holy Father’s Pope Benedict the XVI’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth – the Infancy Narratives (ISBN: 978038534605. The Pope goes more in deal in his scholarly style. It is very informative if you want to know more about Jesus’ boyhood.
This feast day not only highlights the Holy Family, but reminds us what a family should be. In today’s world where the family is under attack by those who wish to create it in their image; we must look at the Holy Family and renew family life. Mothers should imitate Mary, Fathers should imitate Joseph. Children should imitate Jesus who despite being God was always obedient to His parents. What an image is that right? The Creator obedient to the created.
In today’s first reading, we have a choice to read from Sirach or Genesis. The reading from Sirach tells us that God is the one who preordains families. He “sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” The reading elaborates that children must honor their parents as the Commandments state (Exodus 20:12
, Ephesians 6:2
). Doing so will atone for sin and store up riches in heaven. Respect and obedience to parents is extremely important (Colossians 3:20
). We must care for our parents even when they grow older. Sometime people like to dump their parents in nursing homes and forget about them. This is not what God wants (in regards to forgetting them). He wants us to care for our parents and never forget them (1 Timothy 5:8
). In our parents is the image of our Father in heaven (Leviticus 19:32
). The reading from Genesis tells us the story of Abram who God made a covenant with him. His name would become “Abraham” which means “father of many nations.” He also promised Abraham that his wife Sarah would become pregnant in her sterile state and the son would be named Isaac which means “God laughs.” This reading tells us the importance of being a parent. It is a mandate from God. God gives men and women this ministry of love, which is how I call it. He blesses couples with children (Psalm 127:3
As with the first reading, there are two options. In the first option for the responsorial psalm, we are reminded that those who walk in God’s ways will be blessed. Those of us who follow God’s will enjoy the fruit of our hard labor. Our families will be blessed and our lives will be filled with prosperity. The second option reminds us that God remembers His promise forever. God has never broken a promise to man. When He says He is going to do something, He will do it. Sometimes it may not be right away because our time is not the same for God (2 Peter 3:8
). This Psalms tells us how God kept His covenant with Abraham and his descendants
In the second reading, we have three options. Two from Colossians and one from Hebrews. In the first option, we are reminded to be humble and to forgive one another. We must also admonish one another when we go astray. As Catholics, we must be and live in peace with one another. This fulfills the second great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31
). The reading also reminds wives and husbands to give each other of themselves fully in love, mutual respect and subordination. They must not be bitter with one another and must remember what is proper with God. Children must also respect their parents. This pleases God. The reading also warns parents not to provoke children so as to discourage them or make them rebellious. Communication is necessary in family life. The second option for the second reading is the same as the first, but leaves out the instructions for married couples and children. The third option reminds us of the story of Abraham and how he was faithful. His faith was so great that he suspended the ethical as philosopher Kierkegaard put it in his work “Fear and Trembling.” Abraham put himself over human ethics in order to serve God after God commands him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. How many of us are willing to go that far for God? Abraham is called the “Father of Faith” because of this. This ties in with the Holy Family in that Mary too obeyed in faith and took on the role of being the Theotokos, or God-bearer without knowing what she was getting herself into since many would have suspected her of being unfaithful to Joseph, and we know what happened to women back then who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10
Finally in the Gospel, we also have two options from Luke. One reading is simply just shorter than the other. However, both tell the story of the Presentation of the Lord
. Jesus is presented in the Temple as it was customary in the Hebrew faith. While there, the righteous Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus is the savior who will save the world but will cause the rise and downfall of many. He will be a sign of contradiction and promised Mary that her heart would be pierced with a sword. He did not mean a literal sword, but was prophesying the sorrow Mary would feel as she would watch her Son suffer the passion (John 19:26-27
). This Gospel tells us of the role the Holy Family played. Both Joseph and Mary prepared Jesus for His ministry by teaching Him the Jewish faith, the dignity of work as a carpenter, and the importance of family life. They are a model for all families. Today the family is under attack. Certain agendas want to remodel the family in their own image and this must be stopped. The Holy Family is whom we are to look at in order to keep our own families stable and holy.
Let us pray to the Holy Family to help all families of today rediscover family life. Divorce has to disappear. Children must not suffer having access to only one parent. So-called “same sex” unions must be dissolved and the family must be respected as naturally composed of one man, one woman and child(ren). Children must not be avoided or treated as a commodity. They should also respect their parents and elders.
O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.