In a few hours, the year 2017 will be gone and a new year will have ushered in, filled with hope and promise. Surely, the year going past is one filled with events both sad and happy. On the eve of the New Year, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a reflection on their perfect example of faith and love as essential elements of our nature as children of God. The Holy Family though living in simplicity and even poverty, is the “prototype and example for all Christian families,” as Blessed John Paul said.
In this simplicity God reveals our true identity as St. Paul exhorts in the Second Reading to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Col. 3: 12) But what made the Holy Family of Nazareth holy?
Essentially, there are several elements we see on how they lived and loved.
Firstly, their lives were fixed on Jesus, according to Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette’s parish in Fall River, Massachusetts and host of EWTN’s series on the theology of the body. Joseph and Mary had their lives focused on Jesus as they accepted, loved, and took care of him. Every family is called to put Jesus at the center of their lives. Every family who does this will grow in holiness. Those who doesn’t, will not.
Secondly, they were obedient to God. The Holy Family was holy because they strive to do God’s will. Every family who strives to be holy is called to be obedient to God.
“Thirdly,” notes Father Landry, “the Holy Family was holy because they prayed. I can imagine that they must have brought Jesus regularly to the temple to pray and celebrate the major religious feasts. His parents must have taught Jesus Hebrew, like all Jews, by reading and learning the sacred Scriptures.”
Fourthly, they were simplicity personified. They didn’t strive to gain material wealth but were content with simplicity and patience. They didn’t call attention to the fact that they were chosen to take care of the Son of God but rather they remained joyful and gentle even amidst suffering.
Thus, there are many ways by which we can imitate the Holy Family. In fact, aside from the earlier notes, today’s readings are filled with practical advice – for fathers, mothers and children. In the First Reading (Sir. 3: 2-6, 12-14) the prophet tells us how “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” The implications of honoring one’s father and mother are laid out well by God. In the Psalms, we are called to be obedient to the Lord, so that we may be blessed and favored (Ps. 128: 1-2). But the Lord is inviting us to do more, through the life we live and through how we live our family obligations and relationships, so that we become messengers of the family of God.
As we celebrate the New Year, let us spend some time to reflect on this great mystery of the Holy Family’s undying love for Jesus. May we imitate Joseph and Mary in fixing our eyes on Jesus, so that one day we may truly be blessed with the invitation to behold His Majesty’s presence until Eternity.
“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3: 15A, 16A)