Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
First reading: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 or 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28
Responsorial Psalm: 128: 1-5 or Psalm 84: 2-3, 5-6, 9-10
Second reading: Col 3:12-21 or 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24
Gospel: Lk 2:41-52
By Jem Sullivan
A hospital chaplain tells the painful story of an infant born to a heroin-addicted mother. Moments after birth, the newborn baby experienced drug withdrawals. As the social worker prepared to move the precious infant to foster care, the mother begged the chaplain for one request. She wanted her child to be baptized. In the midst of the heart-wrenching situation, the mother knew that the least she could give her newborn child was the gift of faith!
The family is the basic unit of every society in every culture of the world. As the family goes, so goes society, and so goes the world in which the family exists. St. John Paul II noted that the future of civilization passes through the family.
Everyone is part of a family, however strong or weak the experience of family bonds. We come into this world in a family, as we receive the gift of life in a family, whether large or small, complete or broken. Within the family, life is affirmed as sacred and worthy of love.
Family life in the natural sphere finds parallels in the church’s life. For just as we receive natural gifts of life and education, the church offers new life and spiritual nourishment along the path of the seven sacraments. The natural journey of birth and nurture is raised up to God by Jesus who desires to continue his loving work of redemption in and through the sacraments. In God, families become schools of faith, hope and love.
Today the church holds up the love and fidelity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We are reminded that the family into which Jesus, the Son of God was born, experienced the difficulties that many families face today — poverty, displacement, fear of persecution and the turmoil of separation as Jesus was lost and then found in the Temple by his anxious parents.
As we look to their example we might ask — what made the Holy Family holy? For one, the presence of Jesus at the center of the family of Nazareth reminds us to place Christ at the center of family life.
Second, the presence of Mary, the mother of God, who teaches us how to hear and ponder on God’s word, and to rely on her maternal intercession and protection over the family.
Third, the example of Joseph whose quiet labor and humble obedience to God enabled him to fulfill his responsibility as guardian of the redeemer, while witnessing to the dignity of work and self-sacrificial love.
No family is perfect. But every family, however weak or broken, has dignity. The Christian ideal of marriage and family is, with God’s grace, attainable as a path to genuine human fulfillment that leads us to pray in hope, “speak to me, Lord.”
How will you say thank you to a family member who gave you the gift of faith?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.