Feast of the Holy Family

In the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar the Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How fitting to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family during a time of year when many of us gather with our families (whether biological, or a family of friends). What we experience in our real-life families may not mesh well with our image of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but as we come together during the Christmas season (which liturgically only began on Christmas Eve and continues through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on Jan. 8) most families are at least in a state of relative harmony and peace. And for those who aren’t even experiencing that this year, the Holy Family gives an ideal to aim for.

You may be thinking, “What, besides the family structure of parents and child, could my family and the Holy Family possibly have in common? And, my family, holy? Are you kidding?” Our images/imaginations are often influenced by religious art which almost always depicts the Holy Family with halos hovering above their heads, in serene and clean settings. We don’t send scratch-n-sniff Christmas cards with the sights and smells of a real stable. We don’t think of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph being looked down upon as homeless people or as immigrants as they fled to Egypt to escape a threat to their family (Herod’s jealousy, and his wanting the newborn king, whoever that was, to be killed and rid of); or having to live under a foreign occupation force (the Romans) when they finally returned from Egypt to Nazareth. Even when Joseph died, leaving the Holy Family without its patriarch, we hear of St. Joseph being the “patron of a happy death.” We don’t think of Mary and Jesus mourning his death or being seriously affected by the loss of income and security he had provided for his family (and they didn’t have life insurance or Social Security death benefits!).

No, the Holy Family didn’t live a picture perfect existence. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus experienced real problems just like the rest of us. Their holiness didn’t take away the trials and tribulations of life. No, their holiness — their love for God, their faith and trust in God, and their love and trust in one another — carried them through those very trials and tribulations.

When we realize that “The” Holy Family was real, not only a Christmas card one, then the Feast of the Holy Family becomes a feast for us too. When we walk with God, despite our family dysfunctions, flaws, and imperfections – when there is love in our family – then we are on our way to being a “holy family.”

But what does it mean to be “holy”? To be holy is to be consecrated — set aside for a purpose. In the Gospel from this Feast of the Holy Family (Luke 2:22-40) we see some of what that “purpose” was for “The” Holy Family (and also for ours):

∫ to be a family who lives by God’s law. The parents of Jesus took him up to the temple in Jerusalem “according to the law of Moses.” As Jesus grew into a boy and manhood he went to the temple with his parents when it was prescribed, and to synagogue for Sabbath. When he left home and traveled with his disciples he continued to go to synagogue regularly (“He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Luke 4:16) If anybody — any family — could get a break on having to go the temple or synagogue regularly (or Church on Sunday), it would be Jesus, the Son of God, and his parents. Yet they faithfully went every week. When someone you know – or maybe even you – wonders if we have to go to Church every Sunday, the answer is “YES”! Let the Holy Family be your guide to show your family how to be “holy.”

∫ to be a man (like Simeon) who keeps his eyes open for Christ, no matter how long he has to wait. Fathers, you have a special role in your family. When fathers take their Christian faith seriously and live it faithfully, their children are more likely to be, and remain, faithful (this is statistically true)

∫ to be a woman (like Anna the prophetess) who speaks a word of hope to those who have lost hope. Mothers, give thanks to God and speak the truth to your children, give them a mother’s perspective of Jesus

∫ to be parents (like Mary and Joseph) who fulfill all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, and create a home where your child(ren) can grow and become strong, and filled with wisdom.

With the New Year upon us, a wonderful New Year’s resolution — and one that will help you and your family get to heaven — is to be a holy family. If yours isn’t yet, there’s no better time to start than now. And if yours already is, continue to be faithful, continue to be holy. We need more holy families. Look to the Holy Family as a guide; pray to the Holy Family for their help. Peace and Blessings.