December 27, 2015 — The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Sir 3: 2-6, 12-14; Ps 128: 1-5; Col 3: 12-21; Lk 2: 41-52
There are Feast Days for each member of the Holy Family, but this particular Feast which always occurs between Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, celebrates the entire family—Jesus, our Blessed Mother Mary, and Jesus’ Step-father Joseph. Scripture does not tell us much about the Holy Family during Jesus’ growth years, but we view them on this day as a religious family worthy of emulation. In this era and society when questions arise as to exactly what a family is or should be, the Holy Family stands out as a model. The Church celebrates this day in the hope that it might instill in our own Catholic and Christian families some of the faithful love and attachment which seem to characterize the Holy Family.
As might be expected, each of the readings on this Holy Day makes reference to and emphasizes family life. The Book of Sirach was written, according to most scholars, by Jeshua ben Eleazar ben Sira about 175 years before the birth of Christ. Each chapter of the book follows a particular theme, and Chapter Three, from which we have our First Reading follows a great theme of Proverbs: honor thy father and mother. Sirach speaks of the responsibilities of all members of a family to others in the family. At the foundation of a successful family is a trait which we also extol in lives of stewardship — humility. When dealing with others in our family, the importance of being humble and respectful and loving cannot be emphasized enough. We also need to be conscious of the fact that when we speak of “family,” we are not just talking about a family unit, but that greater family to which we all belong — the family of God, our faith family.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, our Second Reading, builds on the theme of humility and goes even further in describing the attributes that are important to be a member of a family. His introduction includes all that each of us must strive to do, the way we need to act, think, and behave. He tells us that we need to show “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” These are not easy, but they are also the elements to being good Christians and stewards. Furthermore, according to St. Paul, we need to forgive one another, and “over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” If that was not enough for us, he adds that we need to let “the peace of Christ control your hearts.”
Paul more or less wraps up his advice and counsel by saying, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” For a family, any family, whether our blood intimate family or our larger faith community to be completely like the Holy Family, we must have Christ at the center. Living a God-centered life will lead us to stewardship and to a happy and thriving family.
During Passover the Sanhedrin ( a supreme council that oversaw Judea as sort of a supreme court and legislative body) would meet in the court of the Temple to openly discuss religious and theological questions. For three days the boy Jesus was in their midst and clearly held his own in the discussions and debates. Imagine being the parent of such a gifted child! That is where St. Mary and St. Joseph found themselves. The value of this small insight into the Holy Family is the realization that in spite of the Son of God literally being a member of the family, their family life was normal and regular in almost every way. The custom at that time was for a son to take up his father’s business. Thus, Jesus became a carpenter after Joseph, but He was more than that — He also was about the business of His Father in Heaven. In spite of His special place, Jesus was obedient and respectful to His parents. The point of this Feast Day is for us to see that the combination of children, siblings, mother, and father all need to be attentive to and responsive to the others’ needs. We cannot achieve the perfection of the Holy Family, but we can strive to be holy.