Today we celebrate the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus. How can this family inspire our families despite our different realities today?
Readings Sirach 3 2–6, 12–14 Psalm 128 1–5 Colossians 3: 12–21 Matthew 2: 13–15, 19–23
Questions that may arise
Some people would say, wait a minute! A family of over 2000 years ago, what does it have to do with our families today? We may wonder how a family that lived such a long time ago, of the situation quite different from ours today, how can it be a model? These are concerns which may be raised, appreciating how far apart, and different, our situations are from that of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
What is family?
The idea of family can mean different things to different persons, depending on their own experience of family. For some it’s a place where they have lived untold forms of violence, a place of servitude. These are unfortunate but true experiences. And as we reflect on family we shouldn’t forget about such possible unfortunate situations. Nevertheless, there are also those who have had a fulfilling and enabling family experience.
For others still, talking about the holy family can be an occasion to start moralising, underlining how bad things have gone, living in the kind of nostalgia of those olden and beautiful days when families were united, under a certain image. In this way we fall into comparison, idealising the past and disparaging everything of today. What do we do in the face of all that?
We must not despair. All is not lost. Jesus who’s born into a family confirms to us that whatever change we see in society today, regardless of our own circumstances – the family remains a model. It remains a good thing for humanity. And whatever our situation, we can still try to live the family values: love, forgiveness and reconciliation. And all of this is possible if we live and walk in faith as the Holy Family.
Holy family as inspiration for today
Celebrating the holy family is not a return to the past, neither is it about seeking each family of today be like this biblical family. However, whatever our family situation is, we can still look up to the holy family for inspiration, that is: to find out: isn’t there something to help us become holy families? This is not about idealising the family of Nazareth, but rather, recognising how, in their ups and downs, Mary and Joseph accomplished their mission as parents. Let’s consider some of them.
Even before coming together, Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant; we can image the shock and the frustration. Then come the threats of killing the child Jesus and the stress of migrating to the foreign, unfamiliar environment. Here, we don’t have a family that lived artificial life in some divinely protected box; it was a real, human family exposed to challenges like any other family. Yet, amid all that, Joseph and Mary lived a relationship, as couple and as parents, which provided an enabling environment for Jesus to grow and later fulfil his mission.
Multi-coloured family today
Today, we find ourselves in multi-form kind of family setup. There are those in their first marriage relationship with children, others are living in relationships not declared as family according to civil and religious practices, others still are in stepfamilies where children find themselves with “siblings” coming from previous and current unions of their parents and stepparents. The scenario is a maze where one can get lost easily; it’s a challenge and yet, it’s there where the light of faith is needed: to enlighten and inspire.
The aim of this feast is not to give a moral lesson, but rather to help us, how can I, in my own family situation, fulfil God’s will; fulfil my role and place in the family as wife and mother, father and husband, as child or parent, and as brother or sister? What role am I playing so that we live in unity of love, where everyone finds a place to live and be respected as person, thus, enabling them to lead a fulfilled life?
We are invited, thus, to reflect on our own commitment regarding life in our family, especially, as Paul invites us to be filled with kindness, tenderness, humility, meekness, patience towards one another in our families.
May Joseph, Mary and Jesus, the Holy Family, inspire us to live in love and unity regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves, above all to have concern for each other.
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