It is fitting the Church places the feast of the Holy Family in the context of the Octave of Christmas, because the coming of the God-man, Emmanuel … takes place precisely in the context of marriage and the family: Father, mother and child. This is important for us because it reminds us that… in the context of raising a family, laypersons – Mary and Joseph (as well as Jesus’ own formation in his human nature) attained the highest levels of sanctity and union with God. So too – in our ordinary lives and in our families, we have all that is needed to answer the universal call to holiness and sanctity. There are countless saints who are not recorded in the canonizations of the Church – who lived hidden, holy lives as mothers and fathers of families.
Church tradition teaches us that Mary is the first among creatures – the holiest and closest to God through her “yes” to become the Mother of God, whose feast we celebrate this coming week. Second is the great St. Joseph, foster father and protector of the family. The two greatest followers of Jesus were laypersons – mother and father. This is an encouragement to us and reminds us of our great dignity and great responsibility to nurture the good of human life in authentic, self-donating love within the sacred bond of marriage.
St. JPII noted – “The history of mankind, the history of salvation passes by way of the family… the family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love. To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that…the family will be strong with the strength of God.”
St. JPII underscores the centrality and importance of the family as the indispensable foundation of society, and fulfills critical natural and supernatural ends, as the domestic church. Where does the formation in the authentic meaning of love first and most importantly occur, except in the family? The marital love of husband and wife, man and woman is the image St. Paul uses to describe Christ’s nuptial love of us – the Church. Every human person learns what love is … from their parents. This is beautiful but also an awesome responsibility for which we will all be examined, in love, at the end of our lives.
The family is in the very image of God’s Trinitarian life – the love of husband and wife in the image of God the Father and Son’s love, with the fruit of their love proceeding in the image of Holy Spirit. No wonder the family is under such attack by the Evil One in our world today. Today we witness the destruction of the true meaning and love of marriage. Any attempt to “redefine” what God has defined in love… only leads to a selfish, fruitless and disordered passion, which our culture aggressively promotes with the impurity found in movies, media and now even in our laws. To attack the family as God has designed, is anti-Christ, because the family is the crucible and womb of Christian love. To destroy the family and its rights and freedoms, is to destroy the very fabric of civil society as well as the free exercise of religion. (replacing family with Gov’t and other secular ideas;
Against all of this stands the witness of the Christian family, where husband and wife give unreservedly to one another, with a self-sacrificing, exclusive love. Their children, the fruit of their committed love literally soak in this love on a daily, hourly, moment-to-moment basis. We nurture this love and its growth simply in our faithfulness to one another in the family, in living the sacramental life of the Church to receive the grace and protection we need, and in praying together as a family and in the context of the Church. God has planted the love of family in our very nature – it is inscribed in our hearts because this love is from and of God Himself. [do not be discouraged]
Family life holds great joy – love and blessings. Yet, it is not without pain, as we all know. Simeon prophesies a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. The Holy Family knew tribulation – exile to a foreign land. The miracle of the Incarnation occurred amidst a perceived failure on Joseph’s part – being unable to secure lodging. They lived obscure and very simple lives in Nazareth, encountering all of the challenges we know. Yet, through it all, God was with them and His will was accomplished, even though what lay ahead was a mystery to them “they were amazed at what was said about him”. So in our prayer to the Holy Family, we know Jesus, Mary and Joseph understand our struggles.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the first among families and should be our model for: fidelity, love, perseverance amidst trials, the dignity and sanctification of labor –in the home and in the workplace, and the universal call to holiness… which is nothing more and nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s will moment to moment in our daily responsibilities.
Benedict XV decreed the following, in giving guidelines to the Sacred Congregation of Rites as to the norm of holiness required that one be eligible for beatification: "Sanctity properly consists in the conformity to God's will, expressed in a constant and exact fulfillment of the duties of our state in life."
Jesus commands us: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. THIS CAN BE DONE IN WHATEVER STATE IN LIFE. Clergy, married, single, professional, blue collar, sick, healthy, young, old, rich, poor… whatever circumstances, education, talents … ALL are reduced to GOD’s WILL – which is His commandment to “love one another” AS Christ loved us … by emptying himself to take on our human nature within a family.
May we imitate the Holy Family and ask God for the grace during this Christmastide to witness to His divine presence among us in our family life.
+Peace DDG ;- )\\