Feast of the Holy Family
The significance of the Feast unfolds the reality of the “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. It teaches us about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and how they lived together nurturing the young Jesus to grow to be a man in wisdom and age and in divine and human favor. The feast of the Holy Family also reminds us about the importance of family in Christian life.
The family is the smallest unit of basic Christian community. It is where the young ones learn the meaning of being human, understand the primary lessons of loving andliving together and achieve the goals of life and above all learn how to love God, the creator. The quality of our societies and our parishes depends onthe quality of life in the family of our parishes and churches.
Today’s Gospel story tells us of a family pilgrimage to the temple and Child Jesus was lost while coming back from the yearly visit to the Jerusalem Temple. We can see the anxiety and anguish of Mary and Joseph while searching for child Jesus. They were surprised to find the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, sitting with the Jewish teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard them were amazed at his intelligent answers. Even in their relief, Mary could not refrain from reproaching him for his conduct: he should have realized that by staying in Jerusalem without informing them would have cause them great pain and anxiety. Jesus’ answer to their reproach was even more perplexing: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
However it is packed with lessons for those enrolled in the School of Nazareth. We cannot program our lives in its entirety. Life unfolds or as one author puts it, a Life is what happens when you are planning something else. It takes unexpected turns most of which are not the result of a personal or family decision but due rather to illness, physical or mental; loss of job; personality differences and so on.
There was an artist who wanted to paint the masterpiece of his life. Looking for ideas he asked the pastor- what is the most beautiful and precious thing in this world? He promptly replied that it is faith and without it there is no meaning in life.
He met a group of youngsters on his way and asked; according to them what is the most beautiful thing in the world? They promptly replied that it is love and without it life is worthless and there is no meaning at all.
He happened to come across a group of soldiers returning after the war and asked the same question and they replied that they are fed up of fighting and they long for peace.
He had three main ideas in his mind and on returning home he found that his wife was eagerly waiting and welcomed him with open arms. The children immediately came around him showing their love and affection for him. His eyes were opened and he realized the faith his wife had in him, love the children had and he experienced peace, joy and happiness. He painted his masterpiece and called it HOME.
These are the most important qualities that are very essential for every family to build a home. It could be called the foundation stone. Faith is a gift of God and it is the response of our intellect, moved by grace and enlightened by reason. It is to be experienced and lived in our daily life by giving God the primacy that is required of us. Faith is the virtue that in turn builds trust and confidence in our relationship with self andothers.
There is deep desire and longing in every human being to love and to be loved. Most of the problems in our families are due to lack of love for oneself and others. St. Paul writing to the Corinthians speaks about the qualities of love that we should possess. A family is a school of love, a life of journeying together, accepting each other unconditionally and growing in love in spite of the weaknesses and shortcoming one has.
Peace is the result of faith and love. The Lord Jesus is the author of our peace. Whenever we manifest that faith and love of God in our brothers and sisters we begin to enjoy peace. We experience peace when we seek and do God’s will in our lives. Also when we give up our selfishness and go out of our way in loving and forgiving our offenders.
In a beautiful address in December 2012 Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth. “The home of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth”.
So, on this Sunday dedicated to family life, I invite you to reflect on family life through the lens of the unexpected or unanticipated events that are inevitable in the life of any family. Things can go wrong at any moment of our life in the family. We may lose our happiness over thousands of reasons that can happen at any time. Misunderstandings, education of children, job, sickness, accident etc. can strike us at any moment. However the important thing is how we face it. Do we have the courage to go back to the temple to find Jesus who alone can solve our problems, anxieties and worries? Are we ready to undertake the search that is necessary to regain our happiness in the family?
St Paul in the letter to the Colossians tells them to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other, if one has a grievance against another, as the Lord has forgiven you. Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of God dwell in you richly and be the source of inspiration. And above all whatever you do in word or in deed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.