The Holy Family and Families Today
On the Church’s liturgical calendar, the first Sunday after Christmas is dedicated to the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we celebrate this day, we also reflect on how the family of our Lord reveals God’s plan for all families.
“To understand the family today,” said Pope Francis on the eve of the recent Synod on the Family, we need to enter “into the mystery of the family of Nazareth, into its quiet daily life, not unlike that of most families, with their problems and their simple joys, a life marked by serene patience amid adversity, respect for others, a humility which is freeing and which flowers in service, a life of fraternity rooted in the sense that we are all members of one body.”
The family of Nazareth helps families of today rediscover the vocation of the family – every family – to reveal and communicate life and love in communion with the Lord. Like Mary and Joseph, families have a mission to welcome Jesus into their homes and lives, to “listen to him, speak with him, take care of him, protect him and grow with him, and in this way improve the world,” Pope Francis said last year to begin a series of talks on the family at his weekly audiences.
Today’s mothers, he added, can learn from Mary’s care for her Son, while fathers can benefit “from the example of Joseph, a righteous man, who dedicated his life to supporting and protecting the Child and his wife – his family – in difficult times.” Meanwhile, young people can learn from the young Jesus in his “reading of the Scriptures, in praying the Psalms and in so many other customs of daily life,” including working with Joseph at his trade and his obedience to his parents.
When challenges arise, the Lord’s presence helps families endure, just as when Herod sought to kill the newborn Christ and the Holy Family went to Egypt as instructed by an angel. During his visit to Saint Patrick Church in September, the Pope also spoke of how Joseph was strengthened by his profound faith in God during the difficulties in his life, such as when he and Mary found there was no room for them in the inn at Bethlehem.
In the frantic urgency of a mother about to give birth with seemingly no place to stay, “Faith gave Joseph the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark. Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life,” said our Holy Father. “As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation.” Divine providence would have Jesus born in a stable, expressing his solidarity with the lowly and identifying “with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice.”
The Lord did not enter into the world by descending in majesty on a cloud. He came as part of a family in humility. He entrusted himself and his plan of salvation to the care of a human family, the family of Joseph and Mary, and “he could do this because that family was a family with a heart open to love, a family whose doors were open,” explained Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
When God came “knocking,” when he sent his angel to Mary and then Joseph, each of them opened the doors of their hearts. God knocks on the doors of today’s families as well. He comes calling because he wants to enter into their lives, just as Jesus entered into the lives of Mary and Joseph. He wants to give them his love so that they can be “families that are united, families that love, families that bring up their children, educating them and helping them to grow, families which build a society of goodness, truth and beauty,” said Pope Francis.
As we proceed on our pilgrim journey, God calls married couples and their children in a special way to walk a well-marked path, which he created to be their road to heaven. They do not walk alone, and they do not go forward in the dark. They are accompanied by Joseph and Mary and their son Jesus, who is also the Son of God, and they walk in the light of the Gospel.
The Holy Family of Nazareth shows families how to be holy and how to help others be holy. The witness of families who answer God’s call, who open the doors of their hearts, reaches far beyond the walls of their home. It speaks the Gospel by their example to their extended family, to neighbors, to friends, to schoolmates, to everyone. It brings Christ to the world.