December 29, 2013 – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
It makes such eminent sense that on the Sunday following Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Holy Family stands as a model and an example to all Catholic families. All the readings for this day reflect the importance of family and the qualities needed to make the family both holy and successful. Although we celebrate feasts for each member of the Holy Family individually, this is the one which focuses on them as a unit, a family. Stewardship should be a key part of any family — that is, the understanding that the family is a gift to be cherished by all, and each member of the family, as a good steward, needs to play his or her part.
It is worth noting that today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is basically the conclusion of what is called the “infancy narrative” about Jesus’ birth and years as a boy. Matthew’s Chapter 1 is the genealogy of Jesus and His birth. Chapter 2 is the visit of the Magi, the flight to Egypt, and the return to Nazareth. Chapter 3 is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The life of the family during Jesus’ growth years is left in large part to our conjecture.
Family life is at the foundation of our faith; in fact, it is at the nucleus of our Catholic/Christian society. The first reading from the Book of Sirach emphasizes the importance of family life and how each member is crucial to that life flourishing. Recall that Sirach was written in the second century before Christ’s birth but the family merits ascribed in this reading are as applicable today as they were then. Blessed indeed is the child who honors parents, grandparents, and elders. Sirach uses the word “kindness” as a quality needed by all members of a family, and this word is repeated by Paul in the second reading.
St. Paul has a way of laying out in a few words and phrases a way of life that we would all do well to emulate. The second reading from his letter to the Colossians is a classic example of this. In his first sentence Paul lays out five traits which always prove valuable in family relationships: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He follows that directly by echoing Jesus’ words to us when Paul writes, “…over all these put on love.”
Stewardship is often referred to as living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Paul supports that concept with three phrases in his letter: “…be thankful”; “…with gratitude in your hearts to God”; and “…giving thanks to God.” That is, after all, what stewardship is all about — living life with gratitude and responding generously to God out of thanksgiving, not out of duty.
St. Matthew’s Gospel reading points to a quality included in the first reading from Sirach — humility. The humility of Jesus is contrasted with the arrogance of Herod. St. Joseph humbly accepts reality and flees with his family to Egypt. The Blessed Mother’s humility has been presented to us through Advent and Christmas. Today’s Gospel ends with the statement “He shall be called a Nazorean.” As insignificant as this may sound, we must remember that Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament. It was a nondescript and unimportant place. In addition to identifying it as the home of the Holy Family, its most notable mention in the New Testament is in John 1:46: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
The family is one of the basic aspects of our stewardship lives. It is through love and humility and kindness that each of us, regardless of our family role, makes an attempt to follow the example of the Holy Family as we, like they, “bear with one another, and forgive one another.”