27 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.
The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.
You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.
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.