Feast Of The Holy Family, Year B.
Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3 – Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 – Luke 2:22-40.
As the season of Christmas opens, our primary focus is upon the Child Jesus who has been born to us. Jesus was born into a family. Today is the Feast of The Holy Family. We have an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the Holy Family into which Jesus was born, and on how their example is reflected in our own families.
The readings in today’s liturgy deal with general experiences encountered in family life, and specifically with those in the families of Abraham and Sarah, and of Mary and Joseph.
In the family of Abraham and Sarah, we see a family struggling with childlessness, yet trusting in God and being obedient to His words. Later on, they are blessed with God’s gift of a baby (Ps 127:3) of their own. The 2nd reading from the Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes the faith of Abraham and Sarah, the faith which helped them to get through the challenges they faced together:
- the challenge of leaving their home and setting out for a country they didn’t know;
- the challenge of having no child of their own until late in life, and
- the challenge of making the sacrifice of the only son, Isaac, to God, no matter what the cost.
Why is this particular family worthy of mention in the book of Genesis? It is because the members of this family placed their faith and trust wholeheartedly in God (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3), and they were obedient to Him while facing up to their personal life challenges (Heb 11:18).
In the gospel, Mary and Joseph brought the Holy Infant Jesus (God), a first-born male (Ex 13:2), to be offered to God (God offered to God), the sacrificial Lamb without spot or blemish (1Pet 1:19), into the Temple (the place of sacrifice) as prescribed by the Law (His own Law) after forty days. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon and Anna spoke of the Child’s destiny and the challenges the family from Nazareth was going to have to face.
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is indeed the feast of families because every family, in common with the Holy Family, faces its own challenges, problems, and difficulties. All families have their ups and downs, and all families share moments of joy & peace and moments of sadness & uncertainty. For the Holy Family, the shadow of the Cross was already beginning to fall across them as they listened to Simeon’s chilling prophecy, that Jesus was ‘destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel’ and that Mary’s soul would be pierced as if with a sword. From His incarnation onwards, the Child they loved and cherished was a wondrous mystery to Mary, and she ‘pondered these things in her heart’ (Lk 2:19). As Our Lord grew up under their protection, they placed their trust in God and did their very best to look after Him.
For family life to be successful, we have to copy their example of mutual love and devotion. On this day, one vital thing to note is that every family ought to have a strong foundation of love. We need to set out to create strong bonds of love, and to achieve these we have to give our time and energy to bonding with each other. Family ties don’t happen automatically! Love, harmony and mutual respect (which are the basic ingredients for a happy family) have to be manifested by all the members without exception. From their earliest days, children ought to experience love and care from their parents (Lam 3:22) because, as they grow older, they learn how to reciprocate similar levels of love and care (cf. Ps 103:13). In adult life, they become what their homes have made them.
Young adults have an opportunity to love and respect their fathers and mothers (Eph 6:2) because kindness to parents is precious in the eyes of God (Prov 15:20). Parents are due sensitive respect in their declining years and should not be abandoned to end their days in isolation and loneliness.
We have to emulate the Holy Family as far as possible. We have to take a leaf out of their book. Our aim should be to ensure that family members are at peace with each other in a harmonious and prayerful home environment, so that problems can be nipped in the bud when things are on the point of going wrong.
Family life is never a bed of roses, and to live it well is becoming increasingly challenging in our time. On the Feast of the Holy Family we ask Jesus, Mary and Joseph to make our own families pleasing to God, to be at the centre of every home throughout the world, and to put new heart into this essential God-given building-block of society: so that, through the institution of the family, the world will be changed for the better.
Amen. God bless you.