The Holy Family of Nazareth is the Model for Families of Today
Usually we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family the Sunday after Christmas. This year, however, because the Sunday after the Nativity of our Lord is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which takes precedence, the Church is observing this day dedicated to the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph today, December 30.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis published his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which presents the Holy Family as the model and icon of every family and concludes with a Prayer to the Holy Family (30, 325), just as the preceding Synod of Bishops was entrusted by Pope Francis to the Holy Family. Quoting the Synod’s Final Report, he writes, “The covenant of love and fidelity lived by the Holy Family of Nazareth illuminates the principle which gives shape to every family, and enables it better to face the vicissitudes of life and history. On this basis, every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world” (66).
Amoris Laetitia is a special gift which offers married couples, families, and parishes a how-to guide on building holy families today. In the document’s opening pages, the Holy Father offers a moving overview of marriage and family life in Scripture, noting, “The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises” (8). He then goes on to look at challenges faced by today’s families.
With a pastor’s heart, Pope Francis encourages our spiritual family to help renew marriage and family life by offering pastoral accompaniment to families, bringing God’s love and mercy to them at all stages of life. Critical moments for this come in helping couples prepare for marriage, in the first years after the wedding, during times of crises, in cases of marital breakdown, and when families are touched by death.
The vocation and the beauty of the family is love, affirms Pope Francis throughout Amoris Laetitia, and this is exemplified in the family of Nazareth, who had their share of burdens (30). As married couples and families try to live out the Gospel of the family in their lives, he assures that Jesus, who was born into a human family, is with them, particularly in the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony (71 et seq.).
Today’s Feast of the Holy Family is lifted up to show us how the love, care and dedication of Joseph, Mary and Jesus can be reflected in our own homes and communities. May our natural families and the whole human family look to them and become themselves holy families of communion, strength, beauty and fruitfulness.