Today the holy Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. Today the church presents to us the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary exemplas of what family life should be like. In meditating on this feast day, there are some points that I would like to present to you, but before doing so, I think we should take a closer look at the Holy Family.
We should not think for a moment that they are a hard act to follow, after all both Mary and Joseph was so holy, and Jesus, well he is God. We must remember that this Holy Family had their fair share of life’s experiences as they lived their family life. For example Joseph having to flee with his wife Mary and Jesus away from the comfort of their home to escape the wrath of King Herod who wanted to destroy the infant Jesus. By no means is it a comfortable thing knowing that someone is out to destroy your child, to kill your child because he felt that this innocent child was a threat to his sovereignty.
After having escaped King Herod, Mary and Joseph must have known many of the parents whose sons were killed by this desperate tyrant, and they must have known that these innocent boys died on account of their son Jesus. That must be a truly painful experience. That must have been heart wrenching for them to live through. They must have encountered some of these mothers, some of these fathers after their sons were slaughtered and butchered at the hands of King Herod. How did they face them? What words of comfort could they have offered? What could they have said to them to help ease the pain?
When Mary and Joseph took Jesus into the temple to present him to the Lord, they both were quite taken aback by the pronouncements made by Simeon and by the prophetess Anna. They pondered on what it all meant. The word of God tells us that, “the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.” Can you imagine the thoughts, the emotions that must have run through their minds when the Simeon said, “behold, this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” Can you imagine how Mary’s heart must have dropped went Simeon continued, “and a sword will pierce your own soul to.” To further compound this, we have the prophetess Anna also making pronouncements on the Christ child.
So you see this Holy Family by no means had an easy family life. They had their challenges like most families do. As Jesus was growing up at age 12, you will recall the story when they thought he was lost, and if you discover
ed that this after a couple days. Can you imagine the anxiety of Mary and Joseph who both thought at that time that Jesus was with the other. Can you imagine how frantically they went about looking for him backtracking to all the places that they had
been to. Can you imagine the emotions that they felt when they finally found him in the temple among the doctors and lawyers ‘like nobody’s business!’ And then came his response of “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?”
Brothers and sisters, this was no easy ride for this Holy Family. They did not have it easy. They faced many of the challenges that many of us face today and were able to overcome them. And so they are presented to us by the Holy Roman Catholic Church as an example of what family life should be. In looking at modern family life, I would like to look at three aspects of this family and present them to you: –
Obedience. They were totally obedient to God’s will and never second-guessed him. They trusted God totally and completely. In the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 2, verse 21, we read “when in the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name of the Angel had given him before his conc
eption.” That is obedience. That passage continues, “and when the day came for them be purified as laid down by the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, observing what stands written in the law of the Lord.” Both Mary and Joseph had very close experiences, or rather very close encounters with God concerning the birth of the Christ child, but they did not let this encounter, nor these experiences to go to their heads. They must have been the most important couple in the world, but yet they were humble, yet they were obedient. We need to be obedient to God’s Word. WE need to be obedient to God’s law.
Offering. “Observing what stands written into the law of the Lord: every firstborn male must be consecrated to the Lord, and also to offer a sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the law of the Lord, the pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.” What do we offer God when we come to holy Mass? When we participate in the sacrifice of sacrifices where God makes himself available to us over and over again in the ultimate sacrifice holy Eucharist, do we actively participate in it or are we just physically present while our minds, our hearts, our souls are far away. Do we go to Mass together as family, especially on the weekends, or do we go to separate masses? I would like to suggest that especially on weekends, you should go to mass as a family. I would also like to suggest that each time you go to mass, totally separate and apart from any monetary offerings that you may make, make an offering up to God of the very gifts that he has given to you; the gifts of your lives. During the highest point of the mass, when the bread and wine are being changed into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, lift up a prayer offering to God asking him to transform your lives too.
Praying together. We have often heard it said that the family that plays together stays together. Well I think the person who started that saying got their words mixed up somewhat. I believe what they really meant to say was the family that “prays” together stays together. That is a much truer statement. In today’s gospel reading presented to us by the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we see Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to the temple, not to play but rather to pray. While we may not know a lot about Joseph from what the Bible tells us, we do know a lot about Mary, and one of the things we know about her is that she was a woman deep prayer, and being a person of deep prayer she must have lived this out throughout her life, and she teaches us to be prayerful, and together with Joseph, they teach us that family prayer is very important. There are tremendous blessings to be received by families that pray together. There are blessings to be received at our minds cannot conceive when families pray together. Many hereditary barriers and walls can be broken, and have been broken by families that pray together. Many of a conversion story began by families that prayed together. There is a world of good to be done by families that prayer together.
So in closing, I pray that the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary will teach us all how to live out the virtue of holiness in our day-to-day lives and indeed the lives of our families.