30 December – The Holy Family
Today the Church marks the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is a liturgical celebration in honour of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1, in which case it is celebrated on December 30.
Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ’s life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instil into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.
1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28
Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’
When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’
When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’
1 John 3:1-2,21-24
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.
Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.
Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.
He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year……the old Christmas song goes. Yes, it’s that time of year when we gather with our families to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and to welcome in a brand new year. Parties and gatherings abound. Indeed a time where we come home, no matter where we are, to spend time with our loved ones. The family that we have is God’s gift to us. They are there to support us, to share our joys and sorrows, to celebrate our achievements and victories, to comfort us when we are down. Many of us take this gift for granted. But for some of us who live away from home, or for some reason cannot be with our families, this can be the loneliest time of year.
Today, spare a thought for those who do not have love ones around them. People who have broken away from their loved ones because of a long family feud. People whose families have just abandoned them…. Or it’s them who chose to leave. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes in our lives. And the most painful thing that can happen is when a family breaks up. Innocent members get hurt in the process. Being in a family has its fair share of love and heartaches, but being in a family is also where we begin to learn how to love and be loved.
Today, our Church celebrates the feast of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The church gives us this Family to emulate. Let’s not romanticize the idea of this family being ‘perfect’. They are no different from us. Holy yes, but they were human too. Like us, they too had their crosses to carry. They too went through all sorts of trials and difficulties.
Yes, their son may be The Son of God, but the journey of the Holy Family was far from perfect. It is a story of life not always turning out the way you expect. It is a story of a young woman being pregnant before she was married. A young man who faced possible gossip and scandal and contemplated calling off the wedding. How when the time came for the birth of their son, there was no state of the art hospital, let alone a comfortable bed. How a mother watched with helplessness and almost unimaginable sorrow, as her son was being tortured, and ultimately died a horrific death.
And what kept this Family together when living out their virtues seemed impossible? Their faith and trust in God; they knew profound hope. They gave themselves fully to God. They had an unwavering love and support for one another.
There is hope for us today. We live in a time where the concept of families are far from traditional. The Holy Family stands beside us, to comfort, to console, to support and pray for and with us. Those of us who are lonely, worried, afraid, broken. Those of us struggling in non-traditional relationships. The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God. They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.
And as the Universal Church; One family in Christ. Can we also be the message of love, hope and joy to our fellow brothers and sisters who are going through a bit of a bumpy road today? Spend some time with your elderly parent whom you haven’t seen in a while. Bring some festive cheer to the family who has no roof over their heads.
Let us be an example of love that binds people together.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: May His Spirit help us to love our family more each day – as we encourage, pray and love one another with His love. Make us an instrument of love and compassion for those who need love the most today.
Thanksgiving: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for blessing us with family relationships where we can learn to love and be loved. For parents, we pray that you will teach us to be patient with our children and that we might bring them up with discipline and careful instruction. For those hurt by things happening in our families, may You always be a source of healing and comfort. May You take us into your loving care. In your name I pray, Amen.