Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40
The solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, mainly for three reasons: 1) a reminder that Christmas is a family feast; and 2) to show us that Jesus was born and raised in a family just like us; and 3) to show that Mary and Joseph faced many of the challenges that families today have to struggle with. Paul in the second reading reminds us that Christ is the profound link for every Christian family. For Paul, Christ must be at the centre of every Christian family. He speaks of the peace that reigns in the family that lives in Christ. That peace is threatened today. The greatest threat facing families is simply that we don’t spend enough time together. We are so busy working, or socializing, or watching TV or surfing the Internet and social media, that we have less and less time for each other. That lifestyle takes a big toll on the family today. There is a story about a young lawyer who lived quite a distance from her ailing father. Months had passed since they had been together and when her father called to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him. She had court schedule, meetings, new clients, research, etc., etc. At the end of her recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” The daughter’s response was quick, “Dad, I can’t believe you’d ask that! Of course, I’ll come!” To which the father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come; I need you more now than I will then.”
The Gospel draws our attention on how Mary and Joseph faithfully accept their vocation as parents, and on their total submission to God’s will. The spirit in which Mary and Joseph lived their parental vocation, is an example to be imitated by parents. The Holy Family is put before us as a model because even though they did not have our modern day obstacles like TV and the Internet, Mary and Joseph went through many of the trials and obstacles that families today have to struggle with. The holy family had to flee to Egypt in order to escape from the threat over the life of Jesus by king Herod. Mary and Joseph were troubled when they lost their 12 year old boy only to find him in the temple doing his Father’s business. They had to struggle to survive without miracles! Joseph had to teach young Jesus carpentry so they could earn a family living. We can also imagine that Mary and Jesus suffered bereavement after Joseph’s death. Mary suffered the most agony watching her own son die on the Cross. How did the parents of Jesus cope with the difficulties they faced? One may say that Mary and Joseph lived a family spirituality centred on Jesus: they learnt to look at Jesus with eyes of faith; to listen to him with attention, and to meditate on the unfolding mystery of the Son of God in their midst. But above all, they loved each other. Just as the Holy Family survived its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray that our families too may follow that example of love and faith in God. The message we take home is three fold: 1) The example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph challenges us to find ways of coming together and centring our family life spirituality on Jesus. 2) We need to pray together as family, because family bonds are strengthened when Christ is in our midst. “The family that prays together stays together.” 3) We are invited to pray for our own families and those of our relatives and friends, so that, by God’s grace, they may overcome the trials and sufferings that face family life today, and find healing and reconciliation during this Christmas season and throughout the year.
©2015 John S. Mbinda