As we come to the end of this year and begin a new year, we celebrate today the feast of the Holy Family. It is my prayer that this feast and the Gospel today is a source of encouragement and comfort to you and your family.
With so many families displaced and grieving this Christmas, I am sure you and your loved ones are holding one another a little tighter this season. I join you in asking God’s blessings as a new year begins.
When we think of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph we usually think in idyllic and romantic terms, especially at Christmas time. But consider this. Mary and Joseph were traveling under hard conditions when Jesus was born. They had to find shelter in a stable when the time arrived. They were visited by strangers who offered reverence to this child. Mary and Joseph did not understand what this meant.
They became refugees in another land because a powerful but insecure leader wanted to kill Jesus. When it was safe to return to their homeland, they brought Jesus into the Temple to present Him in gratitude to the Lord. On this joyous occasion the elderly Simeon told Mary that she would suffer because of her son’s destiny. Indeed, he told her that a sword would pierce her soul. They returned to a quiet family life in Nazareth but had to hold in their hearts the uncertainties that burdened them. They feared for this son and wondered what their love would cost them.
When Jesus was twelve they went up to Jerusalem in accordance with their religious practice. On the way home Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was with another family, that Jesus was simply enjoying the company of His friends. They experienced panic when they realized He was lost and they returned frantically to Jerusalem and finally found Him in the Temple after three days. Mary expressed her anxiety and concern: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2: 48). The answer she is given does nothing to assuage her fear: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2: 49). Once again they return to the quiet life of Nazareth where Jesus grows in wisdom and age and grace and His parents ponder what they fail to comprehend.
Does any of this sound familiar? Is it not a description of family life and the challenges of parenting? Jesus, Mary and Joseph were a holy and good family but their lives were far from idyllic. You and your family are holy and good. May you find strength in Jesus, Mary and Joseph to live in faithfulness, forgiveness, and hope.
Rev. James M. McNamara