It is important to look intently at this Holy Family, especially during the Christmas season, to learn from them how every family grows in holiness.
First of all, in the midst of this family is the Son of God, Jesus. The Incarnation is a precious gift from God, who shares with the world, with each family, and every person, the gift of his Son, that we might know the depths of God’s love, that we might hear and see and touch the eternal life which was with the Father, that we might also have fellowship with God, that our joy may be complete. (see 1 John 1:1-4)
The Holy Family speaks to the reality of every family. Their love, brought the love of God in the person of Jesus to birth.
The love of God is shared with Joseph and Mary, and their love participates in the Divine Love, which is a communion of persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Likewise, the love of husband and wife is a blessing from God.
Here the words of Pope Francis in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love:
Contrary to those who rejected marriage as evil, the New Testament teaches that “everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected” (1 Tim 4:4). Marriage is “a gift” from the Lord (1 Cor 7:7). At the same time, precisely because of this positive understanding, the New Testament strongly emphasizes the need to safeguard God’s gift: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Heb 13:4). This divine gift includes sexuality: “Do not refuse one another” (1 Cor 7:5). (#61)
Our Holy Father goes on to say:
“Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself, restored marriage and the family to their original form (cf. Mt 10:1-12). Marriage and the family have been redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5:21-32) and restored in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which all true love flows. (#63)
What this tells families today is that Christ must be at the center of family life. This means that each member, spouses and children, must be willing to set aside personal (selfish) desires in order to lovingly observe and serve the needs of others. Truth (the Truth of Christ; the Truth of the Gospel) is sought and lived above worldly values.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 2:22- 40) we hear about the visit to the temple made by Mary and Joseph to present Jesus, to ‘present him to the Lord.’
During this visit, there was a man named Simeon who also came to the temple. Simeon ‘was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.’ During this visit of the Holy Family to the temple, we receive from Simeon the third great hymn of this Advent / Christmas Season, known as the Nunc Dimittis. The first two are the Magnificat and the Benedictus. All three of these hymns are prayed in the Church each day during the Liturgy of Hours.
But on this feast of the Holy Family, my attention is drawn to another proclamation of Simeon, which he addresses to Mary:
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
This prediction comes true for all married couples and families who earnestly place Christ at the center of the home and family life. This ‘sword’ of hardship pierces the lives of all families, especially when those hardships challenge us to live our faith with courage and fidelity.
Many families today know the challenges of maintaining the priority of family life in the face of economic hardship. Millions of families today are on the road and on the run, fleeing oppressive situations and governments, even religious persecution. We also live in a narcissistic culture that seemingly knows no limits, which poses serious threats to family life and Gospel values.
I will have more to say about some of the cultural threats to marriage and family in the near future, but for now, I wish to acknowledge the many husbands and wives, those families who are making tremendous sacrifices to live the Gospel Joy of Love. Thank you for your witness to Christ, for your witness of love, for living the Truth as the ‘domestic church’ in the midst of the world.
Happy Feast of the Holy Family, and may your family grow in love and holiness this year!