wow, such a great reflection on the feast of the Holy Family by Father Edward Koharchik (Director of the Paulist Regional Outreach in Texas and also serves as the Pastor for St. Martin De Porres Catholic Church in Dripping Springs, Texas)
Every year on the Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. With this feast being so close to Christmas, it is easy to have a sentimental, “holy card” image of this family in mind. That’s nice, and of course they are holy. After all, one is God and the other two are really special saints. However, it is also easy to think that we, with our own families, can find it difficult to relate to them, or, for that matter, how they could relate to us. It is important that we remember that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were real human people. The gospel reading for this feast, and the scriptures throughout this season, reminds us just how real these people were.
In the gospel for this feast, we hear about Mary and Joseph, forced to be displaced; to pick up and leave because their lives, and the life of their child, was in danger. These were individuals facing very powerful challenges in their lives. How many times have we seen in the news stories about people struggling, displaced, made homeless, be it because of war, genocide, or even the economy. The people in our scriptures knew raw fear, anxiety, struggle. Yet, what made this particular family holy wasn’t that they were perfect, but that, in the midst of their uncertainty and doubts, they trusted that, somehow, God is involved in their lives and will make certain that everything will work out. What made them holy was their faithfulness and obedience to the message of God that they discerned in their hearts.
None of us is perfect. None of our families are perfect. But, we are called to be holy. We all know that our family experiences can be very positive and enriching. We talk about people who come from “really good families,” or we respect families who stick together through tough times. These families are an inspiration to us. We all desire that our homes be strong and loving.
We also know that families can be destructive and that their destructive influence can last over a lifetime. How many therapists and counselors are kept busy, trying to undo damage that was done as a result of poor family relationships? Some of the deepest pain, be it physical or emotional, is inflicted in families. Family members become estranged. Grudges are held. Or just plain indifference settles in and the loss of contact takes over. It’s when we realize all of this that we look to the Holy Family. In their trust of God’s care and providence, we are able to find strength to allow the reality of God’s love to envelope our family relationships.
Ours are holy families too, but we must be willing to help them become stronger in holiness. It’s up to us to “activate” this holiness. As God’s chosen ones, we who are holy and beloved of God must put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. We must bear with one another; forgive one another, and put on love – the bond of perfection, and let the peace of Christ control our hearts. We must be thankful and mutually respect each other. Whatever our family situations may be: “nuclear”; single parent; adopted; foster; groups of friends; parish family; entire Church family; human family, we can enable our families to become holy in the ways we accept and deal with the difficulties and challenges, the inconveniences and interruptions, that we encounter with one another. It’s not about perfection. It’s about faithfulness and always, always responding to God’s will for us. Sometimes it’s harder than others. Sometimes it’s easier. But, it’s in our fidelity that we, too, become the Holy Family.
As we continue the celebration of Christmas, let us look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as our support and encouragement in living together as the family of God, the Body of Christ, in our homes, our parishes, and in our world.