December 30, 2018 The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Fr Jim Miller
Jan 2, 2019
December 30, 2018
Reading 1 SIR 3:2-6, 12-14
Responsorial PsalmPS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.
- (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Gospel LK 2:41-52
Feast of the Holy Family December 29 & 30, 2018
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, which is usually observed on the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas, is quite a new feast, added to the calendar by Pope Leo XIII in 1893—125 years ago. The Pope wanted to highlight the importance of the Christian family and to point to the Holy Family as a model for all families to follow. Mary and Joseph could not surround the newborn Jesus with material things: he was born in poverty, with “no crib for his bed.” Yet, what they had, they lavished on Jesus: love, tenderness, and care. Love transformed the stable, making it a source of light and hope, just as love can transform every home, even the poorest, and make it a place where children can grow as Jesus did, in wisdom, love, and grace.
The first reading today from the First Book of Samuel is quite interesting in that in Hannah’s longing for a child, to be a mother she was also promising to give her child to God. Hannah saw her son as belonging to God and God’s plan for the world rather than as her claim to fame or someone who would care for her in her old-age.
With the smaller families of today I have heard about some parents who do not want their son to become a priest because they want grandchildren. I remember my parents as being supportive of my vocation to be a priest but I remember that Mom was not exactly thrilled when I was thinking of joining the monks at New Melleray Abbey because she thought it would be more difficult to see me. Of course I am the oldest of four boys and not an only son.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love. . . The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place. . . The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. . . The family is also a school that enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity. . .”
My family life was good and a blessing but it was not perfect by any means. I had a lot to learn from Mom and Dad and my sisters and brothers. I tried to be a good example and wanted to be loved and respected and to be a blessing to my parents. I learned to milk the cows and drive the tractor and care for the animals. My regrets are the times I thought more about myself instead of other family members. I know both my sister and I were hit in the back of the head by a rock that the other had thrown. By the time I turned 15 I was much more responsible as I had a school permit and could drive my siblings to school and I now tried to anticipate what work needed to be done on the farm instead of waiting to be told what to do.
The family is a miniature community and we are all brothers and sisters as adopted children of God. We still struggle with understanding, respect, getting along, and loving one another. Some want more openness in the church and a greater acceptance of those who are divorced and remarried without an annulment and a greater role for women. Others want a return to the past of a Latin Mass and only boys as altar servers and a communion rail. I was raised with the Latin Mass and appreciated it but I have found the Mass in the vernacular with the changes of Vatican II more life-giving for me. Without these changes I doubt that I would be a priest today. We all are called to love and respect each other despite our differences in our church family and in our immediate family. My nephew will drive to find a Latin Mass because it is his preference but it is not mine though I do see its value.
Mary and Joseph certainly had some challenges in raising Jesus. It appears that they made a yearly trip to Jerusalem and they would travel with a larger group from Nazareth for safety and good company. People traveling in a caravan of neighbors would have easily assumed that everybody was on the road together. When Jesus could not be found Mary and Joseph had to return to Jerusalem to find him. Sr. Mary McGlone suggests that Mary might have said, “Dear God! The angel never warned me about this!” One wonders what else did Jesus do that stretched the understanding of Mary and Joseph.
Jesus’ spreading his wings probably came sooner than expected and brought with it both confusion and consternation. Mary and Joseph were not any better prepared than most parents are for the challenges of parenting; especially since Jesus also had a divine nature.
What was a constant for the Holy Family was the presence of God, who was always near to give solace, show concern and guide. As God’s presence hovered ever so close to the Holy Family, this same loving God stands with his family, the Church, today. God grieves, but God’s presence remains near as it always has.
Pope Francis writes, “From my point of view, God is the light that illumines the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us…” May we be guided by God’s light to show us the way.
Have you ever thanked the Lord for the gifts you received from your family?
Let us continue to be thankful again and again.