The Love of the Holy Family

The joy of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – fills our hearts this Christmas season.  In them is the prototype and model for every family.  Just as Christ “the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling,” so does the Holy Family reveal to all other families what they are meant to be – a loving communion of persons, in the image and likeness of the Trinity (Redemptor Hominis, 8; Letter to Families, 6-7).

The love of Joseph for Mary and the love of Mary for Joseph was made complete by their fullness of love for God, and it was in that gift of self, in an “indivisible union of souls,” that the virginal union of Joseph and Mary was a true and fruitful marriage, affirmed Blessed John Paul II, who wrote often about marriage and family. Moreover, “‘Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth.  The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family – that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.’  How much the family of today can learn from this! The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love.  Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” (Redemptoris Custos, 7, quoting Pope Paul VI).

As with the Holy Family, this love is meant to radiate outward.  “All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family ‘a school of deeper humanity’: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows” (Familiaris Consortio, 21).

There are many hardships in this world and the Holy Family experienced them too, including dislocation and persecution.  Recently, Pope Francis called the Church to reflect upon the difficulties that today’s families face in preparation for an extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October 2014 for discussions on the theme of “The Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”  To mention but a few, those difficulties include single-parent households; homelessness and other poverty; widowhood and other death in the family; families separated due to work obligations, military service, imprisonment, immigration, marital discord or other estrangement; family members that are inactive in the faith; mixed or interfaith marriages; other religious or ideological division in the family; a lack of love or understanding; violence or substance abuse; and persons who are cohabiting, in same-sex relationships, or divorced and remarried (Familiaris Consortio, 77).

As Blessed John Paul made clear, the Church’s pastoral concern extends to all families, but especially to those in challenging situations. “For all of them the Church will have a word of truth, goodness, understanding, hope and deep sympathy with their sometimes tragic difficulties” (id., 65).  Even for those individuals who might seem to be all alone, there is good news.  “For those who have no natural family, the doors of the great family which is the Church,” the Pope said, “must be opened even wider.  No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden” (id., 85).

In this way, the Church mirrors the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  With their intercession and by God’s grace, our own families can also be a much-needed blessing to the world, radiating the love of God who is forever with us.