The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph [B]

First Reading Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Second Reading Colossians 3:12-21
Gospel Luke 2:22-40

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word….”

Despite the fact that stores are now selling Valentine’s Day candy, Christmas is not actually over. Christmas does not last only one day, and Christmas is not only a celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas is a season which begins on December 25 and lasts through early January. This Season of Christmas celebrates several mysteries, the first of which is Jesus’ birth. Today we celebrate the second mystery of Christmas, the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The Church calls us to meditate upon this Holy Family. In doing so, we realize that, just as celebrating Jesus’ birth helps us reverence how human life is created in the Image of God, so our celebration of the Holy Family helps us reverence the human family as an image of the Church.

For many of us, the past week has presented opportunities to be with members of our families. No matter what difficulties might exist within our families, time spent together can help us realize one of the facts that is rejected by the world, but preached as Truth by the Church: that the family is the foundation of all social life. The family teaches us how “to be with others”, which in turn disposes us to carry out Jesus’ second great command: to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is why the Church calls the family “the domestic Church”.

Those who are middle-aged often fall prey to thinking that what they do for others or give to others is what matters most. But those who have many years of life under their belts are like those who are very young: they recognize that time spent with others is of much greater value than things given to others.

Spending time together on a regular basis may not seem to amount to much. But when that foundation is there, the love and care that’s fostered supports family members when they end up in a crisis, as all families eventually do. The Holy Family, still weary from their journey to Bethlehem, and weary from searching through Bethlehem to find suitable lodging, were forced after Christ’s birth to flee their country to the foreign land of Egypt out of fear for Jesus’ life. This was only the first of many sorrows for the Holy Family that was predicted by Simeon in today’s Gospel passage.

The habits of the Holy Family must be the habits of our own families. If we truly care for the members of our family, we are willing to both pray for each other’s well-being, and willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep each other safe from the dangers of the world. Among the more important, if difficult, of these sacrifices is freely extending mercy to family members who have hurt one or more members of the family.

After the great sacrifices made during His infancy, Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth under the care of His foster-father, Saint Joseph, and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This life was not spectacular. From the time He was a baby to the time He was thirty years old, we know of only one thing that happened to Jesus: Mary and Joseph finding him in the temple. By and large, the first thirty years of Jesus’ life were simple ones in which His mother and foster-father made ordinary sacrifices for Jesus’ well-being, day after day. The Holy Family prayed together as a devout Jewish family, and they took the steps necessary to care for one another. When Saint Joseph died, Mary and her son carried on alone. Yet no matter what God the Father asked of them, they prayed and acted together according to the Father’s Will.

Today God presents the Holy Family as a treasure. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not only holy themselves: they help us to be holy. We all know that our world is troubled, and that our country is troubled. We don’t have to dwell on that. But the cure is right here before us: to strengthen the family, to build up the family, and to improve family life through God, which in turn will build up the life of our community, country, and world.