The sixth day of Christmas December 29th
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus and Mary and Joseph
(The eighth day of Hanukkah and the sixth day of Kwanzaa
Let’s start with some notes on today’s gospel which is from Matthew once again. Herod was searching for the child and wanted to kill him. And an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and directed him to take the child and his mother and flee in Egypt.
That flight was entirely natural for many a Jew as soon as some persecution would arise many would seek refuge in Egypt. The result was that every city in Egypt had a colony of Jews and Alexandria had over a million of them, so when the holy family arrived there, they would not have been altogether among strangers.
When Herod died, the angel again appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and directed him to return to Israel and they went and settled in the town of Nazareth.
What do you know about Nazareth? Most of us think of it as a sleepy little berg. Not so. It sat at the crossroads of the Eastern world and afford the young Jesus a metropolitan education. It lay in the hollow of the hill in southern Galilee, but a lad had only to climb the hills for half the world to be at his door. He could look west and see the blue waters of Mediterranean. Looking down around the foot of the very hill on which he stood, the road from Damascus to Egypt, the land bridge to Africa. It was one of the greatest caravan routes in the world. On it, Jesus would see all kinds of travelers from all kinds of nations on all kinds of errands.
But there was another road that left the sea coast and went out to the East. Once again the cavalcade of caravans with their spices would be on it as well the Roman legions out the frontier. This would become the Silk Road. (Barclay Gospel of Matthew, Volume I pp. 33-34;39-40.)
I met a young couple at a welcome station in the mountains of Virginia a few year ago. I saw Joseph and Mary and Jesus in them. May there be a touch of holiness ~ of wholeness ~ in their lives and in your family too. I pray for them and all young families ~ indeed all families on this traditional day in the Christmas season when we reflect on the hidden, ordinary life of Joseph, and Mary and Jesus in Nazareth. They are a model of simplicity for us.
But for many of us, our family life can be quite dysfunctional. I think of those families today, Lord. Children (some of them friends of mine) who grew up with alcoholic parents and were in favor one moment and cast aside the next, and had little normalcy, and perhaps little stability.
Be with all families that struggle, Lord. Be with us who are imperfect, weak and selfish and perhaps capable of little love because we may not have received it ourselves as children.
We’re trying, Lord. Strengthen our capacity to love, to be present to our own children and our spouse. Help us realize, Lord, that our most important role is not to have a successful career but to love our children and our spouse. Help us to be a community of love so we can call forth the gifts, the love, the moral courage and strength in our children for the next generation.
Last year, Pope Francis wrote an important document that arose from the two Synods of Bishops dedicated to discussing the issue of family life. It was entitled Amoris Laetitia ~ The Joy of Love.
Here are a few quotes of Pope Francis himself from the document. You’ll note his often down home folksy style.
Every family should be an icon of the family of Nazareth.
The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.
When we have been offended or let down, forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say it is easy.
The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy experienced by the Church.
Just as a good wine begins to ‘breathe’ with time, so, too, daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and ‘body’.
Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope.
I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.
We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.
In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love, which can help us fight every evil threatening it. Love does not yield to resentment, scorn for others or the desire to hurt or to gain some advantage. The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.
Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of friendship, which inspires married couples to care for one another.
Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life.
Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right.
And so, on this Feast of the Holy Family I honor you, Jesus and Mary and Joseph and all our families. I also honor that young couple in Virginia whose name I never knew because I saw in them an image of God in their simple, ordinary love. Lord, keep us all in your loving care.
And now before you go, do you remember that poor little family in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol who had a little son on crutches named Tiny Tim? Well, here he is with the four words he made famous. Click here.
GOD BLESS US EVERYONE!
And here are the Mass readings for this feast. Click here.