Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I will pass over the contentious issue as to whether there were other members of the family (Jesus’ so-called brothers and sisters, see Mt. 13:55-56). Although, being the oldest of six children myself, and now very grateful to have five brothers and sisters, I rather wish that Jesus had grown up in larger family, full of the give-and-take and learning that a passel of siblings provides. But for this Feast at least Jesus remains an only child.
On this feast we naturally are reminded of our own families: the one we grew up in and the one we may have formed and now live in. Families today come in many more configurations than in the past. Some include grandparents, some have adopted members, some are “blended,” some are broken by divorce, some go beyond traditional configurations, some are a single person by themselves as perhaps a widow or widower. All these families, like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, are also called to be holy. What made the Holy Family “holy” was of course the presence of Jesus, in the same way our families today are made holy by the presence of Jesus. Jesus dwells in our hearts, and so Jesus can dwell in our families. The more we are explicit about that, the more we openly invite Him to be a part of our family, the more we try to make room for Jesus in our family life by prayer, worshiping together, and as a family performing good works and helping others, the more Jesus will be with us in our family, and hence the more our family will be truly holy.
Then today’s celebration is not only, or even primarily, about some Galilean peasant family of two millennium ago, but is a celebration of who we are, what we strive to be, what we are called to be right here, right now. Our families can truly be holy families by inviting Jesus to be present to us as a family.
In addition we are also members of the Church, which is itself a “holy family.” The bond that we share, which is the Holy Spirit, is stronger even then the blood ties that unite us to our earthly family. Jesus is explicit about this. In Mt. 12:50 Jesus declares: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” In ancient Galilee, and indeed in all the ancient world, family ties were extremely important. They were literally a matter of life and death, for your survival depended on being able to rely on your family. Jesus radicalizes this idea of family and invites all who seek to follow the will of God the Father into intimate familial relationship with Him. So as members of the Church, if we are indeed trying to live as His disciples, we are then the intimate family members of Jesus Himself. Pretty cool.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family we are also celebrating ourselves, as God’s own children adopted in Baptism, and the wonderful invitation to familial relationship with our brother, Jesus.
Happy Feast Day!