Feast of the Holy Family

Published on 26 Dec 2019

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you [1].  In Nazareth, with Mary and Joseph, Jesus Christ was at home.  The Lord’s message first expressed itself in the holy family.  Mary and Joseph, disciples [2], treasured the words of Jesus [3].  Understanding grew in that household of faith. The authority exercised by Joseph and Mary was shaped by their coming to appreciate what it was that the Father sought from the Son [4]. In the security of family life the Word gradually found rich expression.  Everything could be said.  The life of the holy family in Nazareth is sometimes called ‘hidden’. In this household, began the mission of Christ, about which the wider world would hear only later.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not hide from each other what God was asking.

The holy family hid from Christ’s enemies. Escape into Egypt and stay there until I tell you [5].  Jesus was in great danger. Herod intends to search for the child and to do away with him [6].  Thanks to Mary and Joseph, he was protected from the greatest perils. Later, they settled in a town called Nazareth [7]. They built a family life where there was the peace.  Here the child was filled with wisdom [8].  The Lord understood the right moment to face his enemies.  At first, he hid from them.  Not out of fear but because wisdom compelled him to await the right time to show his courage. About the suffering and death which was being prepared for Jesus, the holy family deeply meditated [9].  Jesus, Mary and Joseph strengthened each other for what would be demanded.

The life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him [10].  Those who welcome the Lord’s teaching when it is shared more widely have to wait while he prepares, in his family, for his public life.  After a long nurturing, out of sight in Nazareth, the message in all its richness makes itself at home in the life of many others.  The Word is made flesh in our life and dwells among us, as if in his own house. This is possible because our heart has been prepared to receive so great a gift.  In the experience of all his disciples, he message of Christ repeats its secret, Nazareth phase.  For us, as for him, there afterwards arrives the time when the truth must be expressed courageously to the world.  The hour comes.

Honouring one’s mother is like amassing a fortune [11].  Hidden with Christ in Nazareth is his mother Mary. The holy family is rich in docility to God’s will.  To welcome Jesus and to share his life is to receive divine help for everything that has to be done.  Our Lady’s treasure-house of grace is shared with us all.  We learn to protect what we have received from the Lord by the way we live.  He makes himself at home in our life. We allow a temple to be built in our heart. If the Lord does not build the house, in vain to its builders labour [12].  What God says to us is at first hidden in our soul.  The message of Jesus is nurtured interiorly in each of us.  Yet to be truly at home with Christ is also to be prepared for a public sharing of what has been given.  The hidden life sustains a courageous response to a mission which sends us out to where others await in great need.

Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins [13].  The mission of Jesus from his Father is to atone for the sins of everyone else.  He begins at Nazareth.   The Lord, however, does not practise virtue in the household of Mary and Joseph so as to make up for wrongs he has committed elsewhere.  The sinless one, who expiates the wrongdoing of all, loves his immaculate mother and saintly foster-father with all the love of God.  The carpenter of Nazareth shapes a home-life in which being fixed to the wood of the Cross is, at the right time, embraced as a dispensation of divine love. Joseph, silent and attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, is content that Jesus and Mary can be hidden from those who wanted to kill the child [14].  He is always thankful [15].  Gratefully he receives the warnings from heaven about the dangers which threaten his precious charges.  The holy family understand that they teach each other and advise each other in all wisdom [16].

Despite appearances, more and more of what God decrees comes to pass. Providence shows itself in the life of Christ and his disciples.  In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled [17].  The flight into Egypt and the return from there at God’s command shows the life of the holy family patterned after the history of the chosen people.  Another Joseph brought his family to the land of the pharaohs. Moses led them out again.  From the hidden life there is a new exodus.  So Joseph got up, and taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the house of Israel [18].  The message of Christ is first absorbed into the life of Joseph and Mary. They are scrupulously attentive to the commands of God. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways [19].  At the appointed time, the good news is shared with others.  This is a message taught by Jesus and lived by those who draw close to him.  Jesus does all that has been foretold.  On Calvary, Mary, her heart pierced, witnesses the extent of her Son’s obedience to the Father.  This is the message in its fullness. 

The promises of Christ enable a grateful people to live in the presence of God forever.  We are his holy family.  He reconciles us with God, with others and with ourselves. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts [20].  The Lord’s mission of reconciliation develops within an unassailable providence.  The serenity of the hidden life in Nazareth extends to many other households and to the whole of humanity.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph build up a wisdom which is offered to everyone else. Grace abounds and holiness seeps in everywhere.  In the modest circumstances of the birth and infancy of Jesus there is a richness which sustains us all.  The hidden life is the message of Jesus, providentially proclaimed, the pierced heart of Mary, the  silent wisdom of Joseph and the all-encompassing love of God.

[1]  Colossians 3.16

[2]  Matthew 12.48-49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

[3]  Luke 2.19 As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

[4]  Luke 2. 48-50 They were overcome when they saw him and his mother said to him My child why have you done this to us See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.  Why were you looking for me, he replied.  Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs. But they did not understand what he meant.

[5]  Matthew 2.14

[6]  Matthew 2.14

[7]  Matthew 2.23

[8]  Luke 2.40 Meanwhile the child grew to maturity and he was filled with wisdom.

[9]  Luke 2.34-35 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: You see this child? He is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected. A sword will pierce your own soul also so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.

[10] Colossians 3.3-4

[11] Ecclesiasticus 3.4

[12] Psalm (127) 126.1

[13] Ecclesiasticus 3.3

[14] Matthew 2.20

[15] Colossians 3.15

[16] Colossians 3.16

[17] Matthew 2.23

[18] Matthew 2.21

[19] Psalm (128) 127.1

[20] Colossians 3.15