Feast of the Holy Family
Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14; Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen
December 31, 2023
My hope and prayer for you is that your celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, has brought joy and peace, perhaps even a feeling of satisfaction into your life. Today we are celebrating another feast, one called the Feast of the Holy Family, and we all know who they are, it's Mary and Joseph and their child Jesus. However, have you ever wondered why they were called the Holy Family?
My bet would be that if you were to ask Joseph or Mary why their family was called holy they would argue that they were no different than any other Jewish family living in Palestine. Like all Jewish families, they believed in God and waited for God to fulfill the promise made long ago, that a Messiah would come, to set God’s people free. Perhaps the Scripture was talking about my family, for like Mary and Joseph none of us thought of ourselves as being very holy.
We had and have all kinds of problems in our life, there were excesses drinking, cheating, and stealing, anger and fighting, sickness and sorrow, and yes, love and kindness. We all believed in God, went to Church together, but never thought of ourselves as holy. We never thought of ourselves as holy because we had not understood who we really were, God’s children, sisters and brothers with Christ, holy and blameless in God’s sight.
We are all part of God’s family, loved by our Father, the good and the bad alike. The one thing I have learned, over the years, is that no one can love us like family, and no one can hurt us like family. We have all come from a family, one we have loved or did not care for so much. Yet most of us started our own family and some are still seeking to form one. Maybe, it is better to say, we are families because we never really leave them.
Our family is in our DNA, so to speak, in our mannerisms, the way we speak and act, our very way of doing things. No one can love us like family, and no one can hurt us like family. That saying means that our blessings and our curses are just two sides of the same coin. What gives us strength carries with it risk, and like the other side of the coin, our shame may spring from something longing to be good, something still finding its way.
Anna and Simeon were the only two people in the Temple, and both recognized that “this child was destined to be the rise and fall of many,” and would bring great sorrow to this family we today call holy. Simeon and Anna were people of faith, “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and both were filled with the Holy Spirit. However, one can be filled with the Holy Spirit and still suffer tremendous sadness.
So, one broken but beating heart warns another that the price of great love is pain. Yet, who could love the Christ child more than his mother Mary? The child does not intend to hurt her. Is that not so often how it is with families? We do not intend to hurt others, but the life we draw from the family comes coupled with pain. Yet the child must be himself.
Even strengthened by a holy family, he must go forth from it, forth to preach, and heal, and suffer, till on Calvary he died. Small wonder that two souls would suffer the torment of death, even death on a cross. The crucified one is the son of Joseph and Mary. The manner of love that he learned from them, the love of a holy family, has now brought him to this place of darkness and death.
Even if God has already called Joseph from this life, Mary remains at the foot of the cross. Her heart is nailed to it. Great love will not refuse to pay the high cost of great pain. Both of Jesus’ parents are with him at the cross because they are in him still. By the wondrous, mysterious grace of God, they have made the Son of God, in his human nature, who he is. The tender love of a holy family prepared Jesus to be the Lamb of Sacrifice. We are a part of that same family.