Maryknoll Father Jack Sullivan reflections on the Holy Family and the need to recognize holy families today.
"But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man."
A "God is with us" feast
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was moved in 1969 from the Sunday after the Epiphany to the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day to make this Feast a greater part of the Christmas celebration. This is a “God with us” feast where we remember that Jesus was a member of a human family. The Gospel writers tell us very little of the daily life of this family. Could that be because their lives were so normal for the time…Jesus, like us in all things but sin, Mary, his mother, and Joseph, her husband?
Historians and anthropologists tell is much about the lives of the Jewish people of 2000 years ago. They lived in small villages of a few dozen clans, farmed and/or grazed sheep on the land around them, with artisans, like Joseph, helping them to build and repair their one-room homes, usually of stone. There were no “nuclear families.” All were members of one large family, a clan of relatives by blood or marriage who offered security and support to one another. Each family had its own home where they slept, ate, and shared their intimate lives together.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were such a family during their years together. We know so little but we have conjured up delightful stories about this family which make it seem different from ours. The basic relationships, however, of husband and wife, parents and children, were the same then as they are now. This is why we celebrate this feast, this family, because we experience or have experienced the same relationships. With the love and care of Mary and Joseph, Jesus was able to “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”
Thankful for our families
Most of us in the United States no longer live with or near extended family members, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph did. We are reminded, however, to be thankful for our parents, friends, and relatives who helped or are helping us to come to maturity; helping our children to advance in wisdom, age, and God’s favor. This feast reminds us to be in contact with our neighbors, especially those who are living alone. This feast also reminds most of us that we are the children of immigrants whose sometimes desperate journeys from poverty and oppression brought them to our country. We are reminded of a time when we welcomed to our country the tired, the poor yearning to be free.
Recognizing holy families
This Feast of the Holy Family reminds us, at this Christmas Season, of the special members of other families who are without the security and support of a wider circle of relatives and friends. We remember the migrant families at our southern border seeking asylum and livelihood in our country. Most of us have not experienced the terror, anguish and pain that is driving them from their homes; perhaps our ancestors did so when they arrived in our country legally or illegally so many decades ago. These also are holy families and their presence at our borders and in our midst is challenging us to help our lawmakers fix our broken immigration laws and our policies as soon as possible to respond to them with the same care and justice as we would to the Holy Family of Mary and Joseph when they were immigrants fleeing into Egypt from those trying to kill their Son.
As we celebrate Christmas, let us remember and welcome them with our actions to improve the immigration laws of our country. Let us understand what these asylum seekers and immigrants are saying to us and who is saying: “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters or mine, you did to me.” Matthew 25:40
Image: La Sagrada Familia Icon by Kelly Latimore.