A Family Like No Other

A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A.
Ecclesiastes 3:2-6,12-14 – Colossians 3:12-21 – Matthew 2:13-15,19-23.

Only a few days ago, we celebrated the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate the family into which He was born – the Holy Family of Nazareth, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Wherever God is, He sanctifies the home. We call this particular family “holy”, not only because Jesus the Holy One was a member of that family, nurtured and brought up in that home, but also because of the distinctive qualities of the parents, who lived to the full the life of faith, love and obedience to God. Individually and collectively they are put before us as a model for all families.

Again, when we call them “the Holy Family”, we don’t mean that they did not experience the usual family worries, concerns and disappointments. We don’t mean that the divine presence in their lives gave them immunity against the challenges of daily life. But what His presence gave them was the support, courage and backbone to cope and never to lose hope when hit by the storms of life. Just as every family has its problems, challenges and crosses to bear, so also did the Holy Family: but they did so with dutiful faith and trust in God, with love, gentleness and respect for one another, and with generosity of spirit.

The trials of The Holy Family. In the gospel reading, we heard about one of those storms that hit their family – the threat to the life of the baby. In order to save the baby Jesus from Herod (the evil king who wanted to destroy Him) the family had to flee to the safety of Egypt. In their family life, they faced other unpalatable events:

  • Joseph faced up to the issue of potential divorce after Mary’s conception of Jesus (Matthew 1:18-24).
  • If everything had gone according to His parents’ plan, there was no way Jesus would have been laid in a manger (Luke 2:1-7).
  • After 12 years, when Jesus came of age according to the Law, Mary and Joseph suddenly found themselves without Jesus; but they continued searching until he was found in the Temple after three days (Luke 2:43-46).

So, just from these three examples (no doubt, you can add further examples yourself), we can see that – in common with every ordinary family – the Holy Family was not exempt from being faced with difficult situations.

But what, then, distinguishes the Holy Family? How can our families be like it? The Holy Family was exemplary in its members’ inseparability. What kept them together and maintained their sanity throughout their trials and burdens was their ‘Love for each other and for God. This same love for each other and for God will help each one of us throughout our family lives.

Love guides us towards growing stronger in the virtues of forgiveness and forbearance, and through the exercise of the virtues, we become more and more like the Holy Family. In the first reading, we see the virtue of respect as a vital ingredient in a blessed and happy family. Respect is not just the attitude that should be cultivated in the children towards the parents, but also in the parents towards the children, and indeed in all the family members towards each other.

A family is blessed when everyone is considerate towards the needs of the others. As the parents guide the children well in their spiritual, physical, social and emotional development, the children should be encouraged to reciprocate by respecting their parents’ guidance and giving them their support, especially when their parents’ strength fails due to illness or old age. As adults, some children look back and regret what they failed to do for their parents, and they regret the things they did that hurt them. (This applies vice versa.)

A family is happy and blessed when the members take time out for each other. There is a story about a solicitor who lived a considerable distance from her elderly father. Months had passed since they had been together. When her father called to ask when she could visit him, his daughter reeled off a list of reasons (court schedule, meetings, new clients, research) that allegedly prevented her from coming to see him. At the end of the recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” His daughter’s response was immediate: “Dad, I can’t believe you’d ask me that! Of course, I’ll come!” to which her father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come now; I need you more now than I will then.” Ouch! Sometimes, the best gift we can give to our family members is our time … time which we share together in love, joy and peace. When we love our family members, we want to sacrifice ourselves by spending time with them, all the more so when we realize that by not spending time with them, we are depriving them of our love and hurting them.

Although sometimes we may have disagreements that lead us to have some honest conversations with each other, love will be able to help us through these to understanding what is best for us. When discipline needs to be given or accepted, it must be administered with love, respect and patience. We fail when these qualities are lacking.

Today I conclude with the words of St, Paul, whose advice can help our families to emulate the Holy Family. He said, “you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins…, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts…. Always be thankful…. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God” (Col: 3:12-16). May the Lord help all families as we practice this advice in order to mirror the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. May God bless all our homes.