Homily for Friday, Dec. 29, Feast of the Holy Family
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This would usually fall on the first Sunday after Christmas, but this year the first Sunday after Christmas is January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, so the Holy Family gets moved to this date.
In a way, it’s a miracle that the Holy Family worked as a family at all. At the time, the usually family hierarchy was that the father had almost absolute authority. The wife had very second place, and the children owed great reverence and obedience to their parents, especially the father. In the case of the Holy Family, the child Jesus was God, and the mother, Mary, was conceived without sin, the holiest human being of all time after her Son. Joseph, who was chosen by God to be the head of the family, was the least supernaturally privileged of the three. He was just a really holy man. But how holy he must have been!
At first there were some tensions and lack of communication. Joseph almost divorced Mary when he found out she was pregnant. We don’t know if she tried to explain herself to Joseph or not, but it took an angel in a dream to convince Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful. Who knows what Mary thought when Joseph told her they had to leave Bethlehem and go into Egypt instead of going right back to Nazareth. Maybe she was tempted to think he felt overshadowed by her spiritual privileges and was unconsciously overcompensating by imagining things, or that he was simply overtired by the trip and the weight of his responsibility, and was losing his marbles.
Before long though, they both learned to recognize that God worked in the other. They developed a relationship of ever deeper trust and mutual reliance, because they realized that the only way to know and follow God’s will was as a team. The same applied to the way they saw Jesus. Jesus seems to disobey Mary and Joseph when He stays in the temple in Jerusalem, but maybe this was a wake-up call to them. Perhaps they had grown too accustomed to Jesus’ obedience and submission, and were starting to see Him with overly human eyes. St. Luke says that from then on Jesus was obedient to them; the three loved each other and respected God’s presence in each other, and thus were able to carry out their respective purposes in life according to God’s plan.
May God help us to imitate the Holy Family in our own families, discovering God’s presence in our spouses, siblings, parents, and children, respecting each one’s place in God’s plan, and doing our best to help each other to take our places with the Holy Family in heaven.