Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Today’s readings: 1 Samuel 1, 20-22.24-28; 1 John 3, 1-2, 21-24; Luke 2, 41-52
Nothing drives home the point of Christmas as much as the feast we are celebrating today: The Holy Family. Think of the different family types and you immediately think of messiness. Among the families we can identify are our own family or at least families of people we know. Yet these families, which some might call “non-ideal”, can be the very privileged places where the grace of God is actively at work.
It is therefore very significant that God chose to be born into a family. And it was one that was not spared its fair share of messiness. Jesus was born in dire destitution. His mother, Mary, had to face the challenge of bearing a son not conceived through her husband Joseph. The latter, in turn, was torn between following the norms and traditions of his forefathers and stoning his wife, or to open up to the movements of the Holy Spirit within. Just after Jesus’s birth, Joseph was constrained to flee with his newly-formed family as political refugees in Egypt.
The Holy Family, therefore, is not meant to be presented to us as the ideal family against which we must compare ours. Rather, the emphasis is on a family that, despite the real hardships it faced, never failed to trust fully in God.
Today’s gospel reading, which tells the story of Jesus being lost in Jerusalem and found three days later in the temple, gives us yet another very pertinent lesson on how beleaguered families are the privileged places of God at work on earth. Upon reaching the age of 12, Jesus becomes sensitive to his mission in life. It is a vocation that reconfigures his relationship with his family. We read this in Jesus’s powerful words, which are literally translated as “Did you not know that I must be in the things of my Father?”
Thus, Jesus reaches the age of realisation that he must be concerned about God’s things, be in the places where God is, and do what God is doing. It is, in some way, a foretelling of Jesus’s mission statement. Luke the evangelist skilfully depicts the anguish and that his parents, Mary and Joseph, experience. Their sentiments are similar to those who realise that faithfulness to God often calls us to go through the painful process of reforging our ties and allegiances.
When the will of God is heeded, blood ties become secondary to new bonds we are to forge with respect to others. Recognising one heavenly Father makes us brothers and sisters to one another. This compels us to reimagine how we deal with those who are not strictly our friends or relatives, or even our ethnic group, and how we use our wealth, and even our political allegiances.
In her book Schools of Solidarity, Mary M. Doyle Roche highlights how families, insofar as they are the basic cells of society, ought to have their gaze directed outwards.
In her book Schools of Solidarity, Mary M. Doyle Roche highlights how families, insofar as they are the basic cells of society, ought to have their gaze directed outwards. It is in such families that people – who will eventually be involved outside of their home in education, politics and economic endeavours – are formed.
It is in such families that people – who will eventually be involved outside of their home in education, politics and economic endeavours – are formed– Mary M. Doyle Roche, Schools of Solidarity
At the same time, society must also make ensure that families are protected and supported by giving them whatever they need to function properly without excessive interference and without taking away from them what is proper to them.
It benefits society to regard the family as a sacred institution by being at its service to ensure its stability. By doing whatever we can to strengthen families, not as individual fortresses, but as building blocks of society, we are forging a network of kindness and care for the benefit of the most vulnerable among us.
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