Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth and Bethlehem, consisting of the Lord Himself as the centre focus of the Holy Family, the Lord, Divine Word Incarnate born as the Son of Mary, the Mother of God, and the foster-son of St. Joseph, who became the legal father of the Lord.
As described in the Scriptures, the story of the Holy Family is truly one that is filled with many wonders for its exemplary nature as a family as well as the challenges and trials that the Holy Family had to endure together against the difficult opposition and the troubles that were facing them, through which the Lord’s opponents wanted to stop the works of God at its infancy.
We heard of how the Holy Family travelled from the small town of Nazareth in Galilee to the city of David, Bethlehem in the land of Judea due to the demands of the census that had been ordered by the Roman Emperor Augustus at that time. St. Joseph had to lead the way and take care of the heavily pregnant Mary on the long journey to Bethlehem, and braved the difficult journey in a largely inhospitable condition along the way. When they reached Bethlehem, there was no inn or lodging available for them and Mary’s delivery time was already due.
They had to take refuge in a cramped and dirty stable outside of Bethlehem, amidst animals and their shepherds. That was where the Lord was born, a King born not in a great palace but in a lowly stable. St. Joseph took good care of Mary and her Child during this period of time, and brought them all to the Temple of God to offer Jesus to the Lord as prescribed by the Law as the firstborn son offered to God. That is how we have our Gospel passage account today of how Jesus was met by Simeon and the prophetess Anna.
Through what Simeon and the prophetess Anna told Mary and St. Joseph, certainly they knew that their family was not going to be a regular or ordinary one, just as the Angel of God had revealed earlier to each one of them of their mission in Mary as the Mother of Messiah and the Son of God, and in St. Joseph the Protector and Patron of the Holy Family respectively. The words of Simeon and Anna again emphasised the gravity and importance of the role that Christ would play in the world, and by extension, the Holy Family along with it.
And not even long after Christ was born, He already had to face a lot of trials and even hatred, from the king of Judea and Galilee, Herod the Great who was threatened by the coming of a new King in the midst of his kingdom and thus wanted Jesus eliminated and destroyed. In his desperation and unwillingness to let go of his pride and greed, Herod ordered the whole infant population of Bethlehem below the age of two to be slaughtered. But God rescued Jesus and the Holy Family, and through St. Joseph’s leadership, went into Egypt until king Herod was dead.
The Holy Family was indeed an exemplary family, with St. Joseph as its head and patron, as a father figure to Our Lord and as the protector of both Mary and the Child Jesus especially during those crucial early years. Mary is the matron of the Holy Family, the mother figure as the Mother of Our Lord and also as the wife to St. Joseph, in a loving marriage blessed by God.
And of course the Lord Himself was the Son in the family, brought up by Mary and St. Joseph in Nazareth after they all returned from Egypt. The Lord listened to both of them and learnt from them many things, from St. Joseph He likely learnt the many crafts and tools, the working of the world, while from Mary, His mother He learnt more about the ethics and the other relations of the world.
The members of the Holy Family loved each other and dedicated themselves for one another, going to the Temple of God to pray and to worship, in which occasion when the Lord was twelve, He purposefully stayed behind at the Temple, and both Mary and St. Joseph were shocked to find that He was not among their return companion. They went back all the way to Jerusalem to find Jesus, and found Him in the Temple.
Again, in that occasion, although the Lord told both Mary and St. Joseph that His place was at His Father’s house, but He listened to them and obeyed them, following them back to Nazareth, and as the Scripture said, continued to grow in wisdom and strength in the sight of the world, until the coming of the days of His ministry, in which, Mary, His mother, followed faithfully along, even all the way to the Cross, and was there by the side of her Son when He died.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we progress through the Christmas season, we should see how important the family is to our Christian faith. As the Child Jesus Himself was born into a loving family and grew up with them together and grew in the faith and wisdom, thus, all of us should also model our families along the examples of the Holy Family, building up a faithful family and a strong family bonded in genuine love.
The Holy Family shows us all that it is indeed possible for us all to have a loving family and a family dedicated to God, anchored in faith and prayer, in love and compassionate care for each other. But are we modelling and living our families like that of the Holy Family? Or have we rather neglected our families and our family members, and treat each other with contempt and lacking in love?
Now let us ask ourselves, how have we been celebrating Christmas as a family? Have we been mainly focused on the material aspects, focusing on the glamour, festivities and all the gifts, the monetary and wealth we have gained and received? Or have we instead been focusing more on the time we spend together as a family? We must all realise that no matter what, nothing can replace the love and time spent together as a family, not even money.
It is indeed sad to see families nowadays that do not even exist coherently or in love, which members were divided against each other, having disputes and bitter disagreements, having conflicts and even causing suffering and to the point of murder and killing the members of your own family. And all these are caused by our weakening family foundation and our lack of faith, as our families have increasingly become more and more corrupted by worldly values and become less centred on Christ and the Holy Family.
The family is indeed the foundation of the faith and the Church, as we must all remember that the house and the family is the domestic church that all the young experience through and that is also where our young ones learn the important values of our faith, through our own actions and implementation of what we have believed as Christians. But many of us often do not do and act in the way that we have professed and believed. As a result therefore, we ended up alienating many of those who became skeptical and doubtful due to our actions.
To many, their first impression of our faith and our life comes from the family, and if our families are functional and good, faithful and committed to God and to one another, then naturally this will lead to better relationships between the members of the family with one another as well as with their Christian faith. On the contrary, if our families never sit together and pray together, and never even talk to each other and are locked with each other in struggles and disagreements, then each of the members of our families will quickly drift apart from our faith, as well as from one another.
The devil knows this well, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is why, in order to bring about our downfall, he is leading a lot of attacks and assault on the institution of our families. We should not allow him to have a free reign over us and our families, and the best way is by making sure that our families are modelled after the Holy Family. This means that our families should first of all be centred on God, to be Christ-centric in all the things we do.
And then, we should look up to the harmony shown in the Holy Family, of the value of care and love, obedience and care among its members. We should strive to make our families to be like the Holy Family too. If we have been selfish and arrogant, stubborn and easily angered, then let us all learn to be more selfless, be more willing to listen to each other, be more gentle and loving so that as each of the members of the family, we may come together and be more united, blessed and strengthened by the love of God in the face of many trials and challenges we may have to face as faithful Christian families in our world today.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all deepen our relationship with one another, especially with our family members, and let us all draw ever closer from the example of the Holy Family so that each and every one of us may live our lives as ever faithful and dedicated father, mother, husband, wife, children, brothers or sisters, as one united family and one community of the faithful in glorifying God by our lives. May God bless us all and our families, our family members wherever they may be, and may He strengthen the bond of unity and love between us, always. Amen.