Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
Merry Christmas! Please remember this month of December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the Infancy of Jesus: let us give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the gift of Jesus through Mary! This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I share with you a reflection on the Holy Family. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: Feast of the Holy Family - “The Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus wanted to launch the Redemption of the world from the heart of a family. And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:39-40) The Messiah wanted to start His redemptive task in the bosom of a simple, ordinary family. The first thing that Jesus sanctified with His presence was a home. Nothing extraordinary happened during those years in Nazareth where Jesus spent the greater part of His life. Joseph was the head of the family. He was a father according to the law and it was he who supported Jesus and Mary with his work. It is he who received the message as to what name he must give the Child: And you shall call His name Jesus, and heard the words of those who wanted to protect the Child: Rise, take the Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt (Matt. 2:13). Rise, take the Child and His Mother and go to the land of Israel. Do not go to Bethlehem, but to Nazareth (cf. Matt. 2:20-23). It was from Joseph that Jesus learned His trade, which was to be His means of earning a living. Jesus must often have shown His admiration and affection for him. From Mary, Jesus learned certain turns of phrase, popular expressions full of wisdom which He was later to use in His preaching. He saw how she kept back a little dough from one day to the next, so that it could act as leaven; she added water and mixed it with the new dough, leaving it to rise, well covered with a clean cloth. When His mother mended their clothes, the Child used to watch her. If a garment was torn she would look for a piece of cloth to match. Jesus, with a child’s curiosity, would ask her why she did not use a new piece of cloth. Our Lady explained to Him that when new patches are washed they pull on the old cloth and tear it; that was why she had to make a patch out of used cloth… The best clothes, the ones they wore on feast days, were kept in a chest. Mary also took great care to place certain aromatic plants between them so as to prevent moths from damaging them. Years later these occurrences will appear in Jesus’ preaching. We never forget this teaching which is fundamental to ordinary life. Mary spent nearly every day of her life like millions of other women who look after their families, bring up their children and take care of the house. Mary sanctifies the ordinary everyday things - what some people wrongly regard as unimportant and insignificant: everyday work, looking after those closest to you, visits to friends and relatives. What a blessed ordinariness, that can be so full of love of God! (J. Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 148) Between Joseph and Mary there existed a holy affection, a spirit of service, and a mutual desire for each other’s happiness. This is Jesus’ family: sacred, holy, exemplary, a model of human virtues, ready to carry out God’s Will exactly. A Christian home must be an imitation of the house of Nazareth: a place where there is plenty of room for God so that He can be right at the center of the love that members of the family have for one another. Is our home like this? Do we dedicate to it the time and attention that it deserves? Is Jesus its center? Do we live only for the others? These are some questions which we could ask in our prayer today, whilst we contemplate Jesus, Mary and Joseph on the feast that the Church dedicates to them. The mission of parents. The example of Mary and Joseph: In the family, the parents by word and example are the first heralds of the Faith with regard to their children. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 11) In the case of the Holy Family this was achieved in a most singular manner. Jesus learned the meaning of the things around Him from His parents. The Holy Family would have devoutly recited the traditional prayers which were said in every Jewish home. In that house, however, everything that referred particularly to God had a new meaning and content. How keenly and fervently, and with what a spirit of recollection, would Jesus have repeated the verses of Sacred Scripture which all Hebrew children had to learn. (cf. Ps. 55:18; Dan. 6:11; Ps. 119) He would often recite these prayers learned from His parents’ lips.
When they contemplate these scenes, parents should frequently consider the words of Pope St. Paul VI, recalled for us by Pope St. John Paul II, Do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young - Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them, when they are sick, to think of Christ suffering, to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family Rosary together…? Do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life and an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church. (St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio¸60)
If Christian homes imitate that home formed by the Holy Family of Nazareth, they will be bright and cheerful homes (cf. J. Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 22) because each member of the family will struggle first of all to get to know God and, with a spirit of sacrifice, will endeavor to make life more pleasant for those around him.
The family is a school of virtues and the ordinary place for us to find God. Husbands and wives will achieve this aim by exercising the virtues of Faith and Hope, facing serenely all the great and small problems which confront any family, and will be persevering in the love and enthusiasm with which they fulfill their duties. They will learn to smile and forget about themselves in order to pay attention to others. Husband and wife will listen to each other and to their children, showing them that they are really loved and understood. They will forget about the unimportant little frictions that selfishness can magnify out of all proportion. They do lovingly all the small acts of service that make up their daily life together. The aim is this: to sanctify family life, while creating at the same time a true family atmosphere. Many Christian virtues are necessary in order to sanctify each day of one’s life. First, the theological virtues and then all the others: prudence, loyalty, sincerity, humility, industriousness, cheerfulness… (ibid., 23) These virtues will strengthen the unity that the Church teaches us to pray for: You, Who by being born into a family, strengthen family bonds, let there be an increase in unity within the family. (Divine Office, Payers II, Vespers of 1 January) The Holy Family, an example for all families: United to Christ, a family is a member of His Mystical Body, and has been called the domestic Church. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 11) That community of Love and Faith has to manifest itself in all circumstances, as the Church herself does, as a living witness to Christ. The Christian family proclaims aloud both the present power of the Kingdom of God and the Hope of the life to come. (ibid., 35) The faithfulness of the spouses to their matrimonial vocation will lead them, among other things, to pray for vocations for their children so that they may dedicate themselves fully to God’s service with a spirit of self-denial. In the Holy Family, every Christian home finds its most perfect exemplar; in it the Christian family can discover what it should do and how it should behave so as to bring about the sanctification and full human development of each one of its members. Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand Jesus’ life; it is the school where we begin to get to know His Gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the mysterious depths of this simple, humble and charming manifestation of the Son of God among men. Here we learn too, perhaps without realizing it, to imitate that life. (St. Paul VI, Homily, Nazareth, 5 January 1964) The family is the simplest and most basic form of society. It is the main school of all the social virtues. It is the seed-bed of social life. For it is in the family that we learn to practice obedience, a concern for others, a sense of responsibility, understanding and mutual help, a loving coordination of essentially different characters. This becomes a reality, particularly in large families, which have always been praised by the Church. (cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 52) Indeed, it has been proved that the health of a society if measured by the health of its families. This is why direct attacks against the family (as happens with legislation allowing divorce) are direct attacks against society itself, whose results are not long in making themselves felt. May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of the ‘Church of the home.’ Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a ‘little church’ in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life. May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the Will of God. May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their family life. May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength. (St. John Paul II, op. cit., 86) Today we pray to the Holy Family in a very special way for each member of our families and in particular for the one in most need.” (From: In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the Holy Family, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to be joyful in union with the Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
In Christ through Mary,