The Christmas season is far from over. The octave of Christmas has, in fact, just begun. The Holy Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord, on Christmas Day, is directly followed by the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, which occurs this year on Sunday, Dec. 31.
Following Jesus’ birth in the stable, Mary and Joseph were now charged with a great responsibility. Their home would be the place where our Lord grew up! Do you ever stop and think about what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to raise the Savior of the Universe? They changed His diapers, fed Him, and helped Him learn to walk. No doubt, Joseph taught Jesus how to safely work a saw, and Mary probably helped Him mend His clothes. This puts all of our parenting duties into perspective. Can you imagine caring for our Lord as He was a vulnerable and helpless child? Regarding the Holy Family in this way gives us a newfound appreciation for family life – with all of its trials and triumphs.
Though little is known about Jesus’ early years, we know He grew up just like any human child, and that Mary and Joseph were chosen to parent Him. The Lord chose the family as the place for His birth and His growth, thereby sanctifying the fundamental institution of society. From then on, the family was much more than just a group of people living together. Indeed, the Holy Family is the example of how all Christian families are called to be small domestic churches. And as with the humble home of Nazareth, the family is an authentic school of the Gospel, wherein we live our faith on a daily basis. Pope St. John Paul II explained that “recollection and prayer, mutual understanding and respect, personal discipline and community asceticism and a spirit of sacrifice, work and solidarity are typical features that make the family of Nazareth a model for every home.”
As Christian families, we must follow the example of the Holy Family, and be lights to shine the Truth in the midst of what is sometimes a dark world. Through their humble existence, Jesus, Mary and Joseph remained united to one another and to the Father, working always to remain close to Him and to show His love to the world. So also must we do. As Christians, we are called to show the world “convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person – of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Novo Millennio Ineunte 47). Then, amidst all of the spilled milk and temper tantrums, all of the birthdays, graduations and marriages, we will serve as a sign of God Himself – three persons united in love!
May Jesus, Mary and Joseph bless and protect all families so that they will extol the peace, joy, justice, and love that the newborn Christ has given us as a gift to all of humanity!