December 30, 2012 – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
As we might expect on this Feast of the Holy Family, the readings focus on family matters. In fact, they offer a blueprint for family stewardship. The concept of stewardship within a family is closely related to how family members treat one another — how they show respect and love for one another.
The first reading from the Book of Sirach makes it quite clear that children are called to honor, revere, care for, and be kind to their father and mother. Of course, this is a manifestation of the commandment with which we are so familiar — Honor thy Father and Mother. Stewardship is synonymous with love. Thus, although the children are called to love in this way, it is also strongly implied that the father and mother are also called to love and revere their children.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he presents a series of words which are an absolute formula for not only having good family relationships, but for positive involvements with everyone. Paul reminds his “brothers and sisters”, which includes each of us, that in dealing with our parents, children, and siblings, we should be compassionate; show kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all — love. If that sounds to you like the way Jesus dealt with people, you are absolutely correct.
“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” We do not know much about the life of Jesus between his birth and the beginning of His ministry. We are presented with one vignette of His youth, however, in the Gospel reading from Luke. Under Jewish tradition a boy became a Bar Mitzvah (which means Son of the Commandment) at the age of 13. Prior to that step into maturity and adulthood a boy was expected to study, listen, and question at the Temple one or two years earlier. That is what Mary and Joseph and Jesus were pursuing in this Gospel passage — they were following the customs of the day. About this time in His life we might say, “The child became a man.”
In this passage are key words that also indicate things within a family structure that are important — obedience, patience, and wisdom. Jesus was a boy, a son, like any other, but with a remarkable difference. He had two fathers — His earthly father Joseph, and His Heavenly Father. There was bound to be some tension as He dealt with that reality.
Eighteen years would pass between this time in Jesus’ life at age 12, and the beginning of His ministry at age 30. Scholars have studied and debated and conjectured what His life and the life of His family must have been like through that time. He was a man, and He was the Son of God. We can imagine that He was a dutiful, loyal, and obedient Son. We can also presume that His parents were attentive and devoted to His development, particularly His mother, who was near and supportive throughout His life.
The Holy Family is an ideal we as people cannot replicate. Nevertheless, it is clear that family life, like the virtues of love and kindness and humility and forgiveness, requires constant effort. Nothing in life is necessarily easy. Being a unified and loving family has rewards beyond our comprehension.