As we celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth today, we remember our own families and also pray for the family institution which is undergoing serious challenges in our time. The family as God designed it – man, woman, and children – is being messed with by politicians and lobby groups, with very serious implications for society and civilization. When God made humanity, “male and female he created them…” (Gen.5:2). And when it was time for the Saviour, he chose to come through the family, thereby restoring what was destroyed by sin, and also underscoring the importance of the human family in the divine economy.
We’ve got a few things to learn from the Holy Family today. The first is allegiance to God’s will, even when we think we know all the answers. When Mary was told that she was going to be the Mother of the Redeemer, she did not fully understand but only prayed that the Lord’s will be done in her life. Likewise, when the angel warned Joseph in a dream not to divorce Mary on account of her mysterious pregnancy, he listened accordingly. The Holy Family was very devoted to God and to divine worship as exemplified by their pilgrimage to Jerusalem in today’s Gospel. This point is also evident in Jesus’ prayer life and knowledge of Scripture, which would have been part of the family tradition.
Further, we learn from the Holy Family that no one is immune from the worries and difficulties of family life. Soon after Jesus was born, his family had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous envy. Jesus was an infant refugee!Also, his going missing for three days greatly distressed his parents, as we see in Mary’s reaction: “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.” Any parent whose child has ever gone missing even for a minute would know what Mary and Joseph went through.
In the First Reading, Hanna names her son “Samuel”, meaning “Shama El” (God has heard). She recognizes that he was a gift from God in answer to her prayers. Thus, we must always realize that every human life is a precious gift from God. None of us can fashion another human being alone, the way a sculptor fashions a work of art. Human life comes from the union of two loving, totally self-giving spouses, a union which God often blesses with children. No human being is a simple “product” of blind fate or science; and none of us is a “mistake”. Therefore,no one deserves to be an “unwanted” child. We all are beloved children of God, called to everlasting communion with him.
Today’s family institution is under serious strains, threatened on different fronts by a) the utilitarians who would stop at nothing to ensure their pleasure or comfort, and so they support abortion and euthanasia; b) those who seek to subvert nature by proposing that God made “Adam & Steve” as opposed to Adam & Eve; such people support the anomaly of homosexual unions; and c) the so-called Environmentalists and “Green” lobby groups who try to convince us that human beings are a cancer on the environment – needing to be excised. It was St John Paul II who made the point that, “in the countries of the so-called Third World, families often lack both the means necessary for survival, such as food, work, housing and medicine, and the most elementary freedoms. In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself.” (Familiaris Consortio #6)
Therefore, we are called to greater vigilance, to remain steadfast in the defence of our moral values, especially concerning human life. This is the reason behind the Church’s uncompromising position on all moral issues regarding the dignity of human life. Human beings are unique members of this earth, created in God’s image, and, though fallen, destined for eternal glory. The other creatures around us, from whales to rain forests, are beautiful and marvellous and deserving of our respectful and responsible use, but they do not share the same dignity as human beings. In fact, the entire physical universe is less valuable than the tiniest human embryo, because the universe will pass away, but every human soul will live forever, either in heaven or in hell. Surely, we are called to use and develop the earth’s resources responsibly, but the earth is not more important than the people who inhabit it. In fact, it’s for us humans that God made the earth in the first place.
When God sent the Saviour, it was by way of a family—the Holy Family of Nazareth. God could have chosen any other way. But the fact is that the Father entrusted his Son to human parents, Mary and Joseph. God sent his Son to a family of man and woman (husband and wife), even though their conjugal union was not needed for his conception. God did not send his Son to a family of “Joseph and James” but to Joseph and Mary. Also, God could have sent his Son through Mary as a single woman if he thought that was the ideal, but the fact that Jesus came to us through the traditional family setting as we know it tells us that that is the model to follow and defend at all times. Again, Pope John Paul II makes the point that, “Christian marriage and the Christian family build up the Church: for in the family the human person is not only brought into being and progressively introduced by means of education into the human community, but by means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child is also introduced into God’s family, which is the Church” (Familiaris Consortio #15).
Let us pray today for all those families going through the pain of separation or the loss of a loved one; for those, especially women and children, affected by domestic violence and marital infidelity; for those families taken apart by war and civil strife; for those finding it hard to conceive a child of their own; for those who desire but have yet to find their own spouses; for those in need of the means to start their own family; for those families reeling under the impact of cost of living pressures; for those affected by the illness of a family member; and for all those affected by the pains of abortion. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph come to their aid; and may the Father of all consolation send showers of his mercy upon all our families. Amen!