During this Octave of Christmas, we rejoice and celebrate the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God. He has entered into time, into human history and culture, taking upon himself all that is human, to transform it all and to give it meaning. He has entered into the human family and truly become a member of every family. It is most fitting, then, that we celebrate today’s Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph within this joyous Octave. It is a feast which is even more important in our times, “a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it” (St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 3).
In the Holy Family of Nazareth, God in his goodness has given us a most shining example of family life. The readings invite us to ponder the virtues and values reflected by Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their family life together. We are called to imitate them, so that we may, one day, delight in the eternal rewards of heaven together with them.
The Holy Family descended from Abraham, whom the biblical tradition presents as “our father in faith” (Rm 4:16). It is no surprise, then, that this year (Year B) we ponder the exemplary faith of Abraham in both the first and the second reading. We admire Abraham’s faith as the model response to God’s initiative of love. The account of his pilgrimage of faith reminds us that everything begins with God, who reveals himself to us. It is not we who choose God but God who chooses us first (cf. Jn 15:16). On his own initiative he proposes that we enter into a loving and lasting relationship with him – which we know as a covenant. Today’s Responsorial Psalm reminds us that “the Lord remembers his covenant forever.” This is what Abraham experienced in the first reading; the Lord made a covenant with him and remembered it. He promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, a promise of a “heavenly” family. And the first sign that the divine promise would be fulfilled was the gift of Isaac, the son given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.
After receiving the promise from God, Abraham had a long wait. Feelings of weariness, despondency and uncertainty lurked around his heart. He did not yield to these feelings but “put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” The Letter to the Hebrews describes how Abraham’s faith in God remained unwavering. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” What great faith in God! And his faith was proven to be even greater when it was put to the test. Abraham did not hesitate to offer up the only son that was given to him after a long waiting period, for he trusted that God was able to raise him up.
In Abraham we clearly see a life of unshakable faith in God’s loving care, a life of total surrender to God’s will. What does this have to do with the family? This faith is the very foundation of the lives of Mary and Joseph, whom we read about in today’s Gospel. Like Abraham, they put their faith into action. Faith moves them to show great respect and obedience for the law of the Lord. Therefore, they diligently present the Child Jesus in the Temple “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” They cannot afford a lamb, so they offer what was permitted from the poor, two small birds. That symbolic sacrifice was nothing compared to the sacrifice of their lives in the service of their Son.
The aspect of the life of the Holy Family that is highlighted this year is obedience to God’s law, which is an expression of our faith and trust in God who loves us. We are all called to respond to God’s initiative of love by faith. This, in practice, means submission to God’s will and observance of his law in daily life, with all its ups and downs. No family is without trials, but every family that is founded on faith in God, that strives to serve God and do his will, will discover the secret of lasting peace, harmony and joy.
How can I imitate the values of the Holy Family within my own household? Like Abraham, does my faith sustain me during times of suffering and uncertainty? Am I willing to trust in the will of God who leads me to lasting peace?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.