Today, the Sunday after Christmas, is always kept as the feast of the Holy Family, namely, the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Christmas is a time when we typically think of families: many people meet up with their families. I’ve got my own family staying with me at the moment –and let me tell you, that presbytery is fine for one man but it is not fine for a family of 8!
But there are deeper reasons to think about the family at Christmas, theological not just social reasons, and that’s why the Church gives us today’s feast of the Holy Family.
“Family Values” are not fashionable these days, in fact, the Catholic Church gets strongly attacked for being the only body left in this country defending the traditional family.
Today’s feast of the Holy Family reminds us of the simple fact that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a FAMILY. When the Lord Jesus Christ, eternally existing before time began, when He chose how He would become human, He chose to be born in a FAMILY.
He chose to be raised by a couple who had given themselves to each other in marriage, in a lifelong commitment, a commitment that gave the child Jesus a secure environment to live in.
He chose to be raised by a couple that were married in a heterosexual union, parents that would offer the complimentarily and differences that a man and a woman bring.
He chose to be born amidst a nation and people, God’s Chosen People, a people that God had chosen and formed so that its heterosexual, exclusive, committed, notion of marriage and family life would be the place where He would dwell.
He chose, more particularly, to be raised by a couple exceptional in holiness and virtue. Our Lady, we know as Catholics, was Immaculately Conceived and lived sinlessly all her life, “full of grace”. St Joseph, too, Tradition teaches us, was noteworthy in his goodness, as the examples we see in the Gospels show.
Jesus chose such a family as His home to do two things for us:
To give us an example of what family life is;
And, to make family life holy, to make family life a place where Jesus Himself can come to meet us and help us.
Now, none of this makes family life easy or simple. Though Christ wishes to reign in our families, and wishes to strengthen and help us live family life, this doesn’t happen automatically. But one of the things that today’s feast should remind us is that it is the HOLY Family we should turn to when we need help with our own families. Struggling to be a father? “Go to Joseph”(Gen 41:53): go to his example, go to him in your prayers. Similarly with Our Lady.
In as much as fail in family life, let us remember that Mary and Joseph had their difficulties too, and as we struggle and fail they will help us remedy what we can. They struggled to find a place for Our Lady to give birth –in the stable! They had to flee to Egypt to escape the wicked King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
The Church promotes what is sometimes dismissively called ‘traditional’ family life, but she does not promote this because she foolishly thinks it is easy. No, she promotes it because it is easier than the alternative. Easier than the ever increasing breakdown in society that we see around us. And though the effects of that breakdown effect each of us, by turning to the Holy Family we can help maintain some of those values in our own families.
To conclude, I want to ask you all to join with me in praying for family life, and for our own families in this parish. On Vocations Sunday I asked you to join me in a novena, in 9 days of prayers for priestly and religious vocations. Today, I ask you to join me in a novena for family life. We’ll say this pray at Mass for 9 days, please also say it at home and with your families.
By ourselves we struggle, but with their help Christ can happily reign in our homes too.