FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
The Sunday after the Christmas is celebrated as the feast of the Holy Family. Christmas is the feast of God entering a family to stay with the humans. It appears that God thought it to be wise to start the decisive phase of salvation history from a family. In the story of the fall, the very first negative consequence of sin was visible in the family of the first parents; they distanced themselves from God, blamed one another and their life together became difficult, painful and filled with suffering. God deemed it fit to restore the broken family bonds as an important step towards the restoration of ruptured relationship the human race had with God. When God sent his son as the member of the family of Joseph and Mary, he was undoing the mistakes of the first parents.
The Church has always presented the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a model and pattern for families of Christians to be imitated. They were an exemplary family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the parents: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).
The Holy Family had Jesus as the center of their life. God called the other two members of the family and prepared them and blessed them with special graces to welcome Jesus into their midst. Mary and Joseph accepted Jesus to be a unique gift to their family. As parents of Jesus, they lived totally for him. Under their watchful eyes Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor Parents must learn to keep Jesus at the center of their married life. It would help them tackle many problems that might arise in their life. If Jesus is the center of their life, they would learn the art making the family from Jesus’ perspective. Letting Jesus enter into our families and keeping him at its center is the big challenge the couples of our time face. In the Gospel we see Jesus entering the homes of many. When he enters a home he leads its members to a deeper understanding of the Word of God (as happened in the home of Martha and Mary), invites them for a change of heart (as happened in the home of Zacchaeus), gives them healing(as happened in the home Peter) and restores life to its fullness (as happened in the home of Jairus).His presence in a home guarantees solution to the most waxing problems affecting it (as happened in the wedding home at Cana). Still many are afraid to let Jesus in, in their home.
They had an attitude of listening and pondering on the word of God. This helped Mary to accept the divine plan, which was sometimes beyond any human comprehension. This attitude helped her to be more open to the working of the Holy Spirit and to carry out the will of God in whatever she did. Similarly Joseph too listened and discerned the will of God in problems and difficulties so that he could totally respond to the call of God. Their unwavering faith in the providence of God enabled them to accept the joys and sorrows of life with serenity. They did not complain about anything. They accepted every happening in the family with humility. They were convinced that whatever happened to them was the Lord’s doing. This attitude of theirs increased their love and respect for one another. They trusted each other as they trusted God. So they stood united in the ups and downs of their life. What we see in the families around us is the lack of openness to God and one another and the consequent disunity. When we push up our selfish agenda it will hurt both God and other members of our family. On this feast day of the Holy Family, let us recollect what the Psalmist has to say: Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.” It is Fr. Paton who said that the family that prays together stays together.