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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph


“Love the ones you’re given.” ~ Bishop Robert Barron

The sixth day in the Octave of Christmas brings with it the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a celebration that made its way onto the Liturgical Calendar 101 years ago in the year 1921 courtesy of Pope Benedict XV. Our priests will wear white today and for the remaining days of the Christmas Octave, representing the Light of Christ entering the world (1 John 1:5-2:2). The Venerable Pope Pius XII said of the Holy Family “God did not create a human family made up of segregated, disassociated, mutually independent members. No, he would have them all united by the blood of total love of Him and consequent self dedication to assisting each other to maintain that bond intact.”

A few days ago we remembered the Feast Day of the intrepid Protomartyr of our Church, Saint Stephen, the man who in many respects triggered the ministry of Saint Paul, who outlines the attributes of a holy family in today’s 2nd Reading by way of his letter to the Colossians (3:13-21). Paul promotes a spirit of sacrificial love and gratitude when he says “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We know how much God loved mankind, entering the world as a child and ultimately going to the cross for our sins. We are called to emulate this love. Paul touts compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience as virtues to be coveted and pursued. He urges us to bear with one another and to forgive one another. Anyone who has ever been egregiously wronged by another person knows how difficult this can be. But with God’s grace and a willing spirit, the seemingly impossible is well within our reach.

It is through the family that we learn how to become holy. It is within the fabric of family life where the jagged edges are made smooth, where we press onward on our journey to the Father’s Heavenly dwelling place, where His family, the Mystical Body of Christ ~ you, me, and everyone in our midst who loves and serves God and their neighbor ~ will reside in the Beatific Vision and the subsequent New Heaven and New Earth

The family is, to quote Bishop Robert Barron, “The forum in which both parents and children are able to discern their missions.” The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us of the priceless gift of a family. Christ came to earth within a family, and he can come to each of us today through the love and faith found in family life. It is through the family that we become fully human so that we can one day be fully divine. Our families are meant to be a microcosm of the Holy Family. God was made incarnate by way of the embrace of the human family. The majority of Jesus’ earthly life was spent in the quiet happiness of domestic life with his mother and father.

In today’s 1st Reading, taken from the 1st Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28) we revisit the Song of Hannah, a reading that was proclaimed in part last Wednesday in the days leading up to the Nativity What an amazing act of love and faith by Hannah, giving to God that which she longed for, prayed for, and loved the most, her newborn son. Samuel would of course go on to achieve legendary status as a member of Christ’s Mystical Body, that previously aforementioned ethereal union which unites all of Christ’s holy family. It is the selfless love of a mother, equipped with the unique and sublime gifts of her unique femininity, that is indeed the glue of every vibrant family.

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At today’s Mass, we repeatedly prayed for the grace to imitate the Holy Family. That’s a tall order. But as Father Paul Scalia suggests in his essay for The Catholic Thing entitled The Pilgrim Family, “We can’t hope to imitate them in every regard. But we can and should imitate them in being families on pilgrimage. Just as the Holy Family was formed by their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, so every Catholic family is to be a pilgrim community – one that has a clear destination, a journey to make, and companions on the way.”

I leave you with one of the prayers offered at Mass today, the Collect in fact. I urge you to continue to pray for all families, that we may always strive to be holy examples of the holiest of examples.

“Oh God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the holy family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards.“ ~ Amen

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