The Feast of the Holy Family invites us to look closely at the family from Nazareth and contemplate their mystery and beauty, their joy and struggles. Today’s celebration reminds us that God has entered human history in the midst of the family and shows us just how very important the family is. Pope Francis said, “God wanted to be born into a human family, he wanted to have a mother and father like us.”
In today’s world, full of confusion, misunderstandings and the breakdown of family life, we desperately need a good model for life and to help us to fulfil our vocations of holiness. There is no doubt that the example of the Holy Family inspires us unceasingly and shows the important values that never change and that really matter.
The Family from Nazareth is like a well of fresh water with an endless source. Any time we look at the Holy Family and reflect about their life we take a sip of freshness and a new understanding into our life. This unique family can help us to understand ourselves and see our life in a different light or from a different perspective.
There is much we can learn from this simple, faithful and humble family from Nazareth. I would like to focus only on some things I’ve learnt anew when meditating upon the mystery of the Holy Family.
First of all, Jesus, Mary and Joseph show us that the family is a community of persons. They all were individuals with different and unique personalities. Each of them was needed and had something to offer. Jesus, Mary and Joseph had a purpose for their lives and through their faith and love of God they discerned and fulfilled God’s will. From the beginning, they followed their vocation as individual persons and as a family. They respected each other and accepted the mystery of each heart even though it caused pain and sometimes confusion.
When I think about my family I can easily see that family is really a place of modelling each member as a person. It is the place where we learn to relate to each other, and the place we realise we are not islands in the world and we need each other to grow as a person.
Secondly, this diversity of persons was united in community. They lived as a community, which means that they shared daily responsibilities according to their time, culture and customs. They shared their struggles and joys, challenges and successes. The community of these three persons was a place of growth and nourishment of deep relationship, belonging and trust.
The Holy Family was a community based on love and faith. Only love makes a family able to embrace and unite differences. Only faith gives the strength to go through struggles and hardships. The Holy Family wasn’t free from misunderstanding, confusion and a variety of difficulties. But love and strong faith sustained them to stay together.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, we read “The love between members of the family is given life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and family.”
Love is the bond that unites a family. Love is a decision to forgive and accept forgiveness; to reflect and be open for transformation; to accept and challenge myself and others; to be compassionate and merciful. Love is self-giving, self-abandoning, self-sacrificing, and always sees others first.
St John Paul II wrote “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless.” The Holy Family reminds us that family is the place where love is revealed to each member, the place where love is encountered and experienced and everyone makes their own.
I would like to finish my reflection with one more quality that is often missing in our lives and, ironically, which we need tremendously. I am thinking about simplicity. When I look at Jesus, Mary and Joseph I always envy their simplicity of life and of faith. The home of the Holy Family in Nazareth was a sanctuary of ordinary and happy life. The source of their happiness was mutual love and faith, not luxury and splendour. Faithfulness to tradition, daily routine and simple gestures of love built peace and harmony in their home. Pope Francis wrote in Amoris Laetitia “Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores.”
Nowadays, we all push to have and to experience more and more that it is hard to enjoy less and having simple things. This leads us to be selfish and self-centred persons who are unable to share, to be grateful and to be really happy in life. A life of billboards and advertisements encourages us to give up quickly when it is hard and to abandon people, friends and even God when they do not meet our expectations. The simplicity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph reminds us to be thankful and grateful in our lives.
I mentioned only some qualities of the Holy Family that we can apply to ourselves, or at least think about. The Holy Family can still help us to build faithful and loving families. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the humble and beautiful family from Nazareth, always intercede for us. And I would like to invite you to pray and ask the Holy Family for their protection and intercession:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love; to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division; may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Graciously hear our prayer. Amen.