The Holy Family as Exemplar

                   

SUNDAY REFLECTION

 

            I SAMUEL 1:20-22.24-28, 1 JOHN 3:1-2.21.24, LUKE 2:41-52

The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church this weekend as a model for our families. first of all, one can notice  some connections between the gospel and the first reading. Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55) is very similar to Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

  • Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord. Samuel was raised by Eli, a priest, in a temple-like setting. The “temple” was literally Samuel’s home, and the priest was his surrogate father.
  • Hannah and her husband went to this temple yearly to make their sacrifice (1 Samuel 1:3, 7, 21; 2:19).
  • “The child Samuel grew on, and increased in favor both with Yahweh, and also with men” (1 Samuel 2:26. See Luke 2:52)
  • It was in the temple that Samuel grew to understand his calling.

 

St. Luke describes the Holy Family in our Gospel, whose obedience and faithfulness to the Word are quite evident. He presents them as the first stewards of God’s Love and the very model of Christian families and communities. Let us critically analyze the gospel reading, then pick up some virtues we can learn from this holy family.

The Family was Highly Devoted

Women are allowed but not required to observe Passover. Jewish men who live within 20 miles of Jerusalem are required to attend Passover annually, while others aspire to do so at least once in their lifetime (Barclay, 24). At age twelve, Jesus is not yet obligated to keep the festivals, the fact that both Jesus, Joseph and Mary make this trip to Jerusalem every year signals their deep piety.

Luke will also tell us of Jesus’ circumcision and dedication as well as Mary’s purification, which also confirm their observance of the law (2:21-40). Remember it was at the time of census by Caesar Augustus that Jesus was born, when Joseph was on his way to observe the decree. This shows how devoted and obedient this family is. They are not known for violence, always in obedience to the law of God and the society.

The journey From Nazareth to Jerusalem is a significant journey which is about 60 miles (100 km) requiring several days travel each way in addition to a week in Jerusalem. Such a trip involves a significant commitment of time and money, like a two-week vacation. This is an expensive pilgrimage for Joseph and Mary; an act of true devotion. While the Holy Family’s simplicity and devotion may seem divorced from modern Christian life, looking to St. Joseph, Mary and Jesus as role models remains relevant, writes Mike Sullivan in the December 2006 issue of Catholic Answers Magazine. “We are called to be in the world, not of the world. If we hold up the Holy Family as the example for our families, not only will we learn how to live holy lives, but we will begin to change the culture in which we live.

The Holy family is guided by Love

We might ask how they could have overlooked Jesus’ absence, But supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey” (v. 44a). They go a day’s journey, perhaps twenty miles, before realizing that Jesus is not with them. It requires another day to retrace their steps. When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him” (v. 45). Any parent can imagine the range of feelings experienced by Joseph and Mary. They would have blamed and insulted each other. Joseph especially would have talked hard on Mary who as a mother is supposed to take care of the Child, but the scenario is otherwise. No single chapter or verse in the scriptures was seen where Joseph or Mary was insulting his wife or husband. They were bound by love.

Secondly Joseph been the father would have allowed Mary to go back to Jerusalem alone and suffer for her presumed carelessness but he rather joined hands with his wife to look for Jesus; A very wonderful lesson for every family. The joy and challenges of every family must not be left alone for either of the couple but for the two. At marriage, their hands are joined together; an expression that shows that the family problems and challenges are for the two.

Next, the Holy Family reminds us that family life is not always perfect and peaceful, that there will always be challenges and problems. Think of the problems the Holy Family encountered: Mary and Joseph had to leave their home at a very inconvenient time and travel to Bethlehem in difficult and dangerous circumstances; there was no room for them at the Inn and Jesus had to be born into the meanest of conditions; family and friends did not understand or support their impulsive decisions; and civil authorities, jealous of their son, wanted to destroy Him, forcing them to flee to a distant land (as illegal immigrants, no doubt) for their safety.

Family life is not always perfect and peaceful. What are the problems you have encountered in your life? What are the challenges you are facing today? take this family as your model.

Finally, the Holy Family reminds us that God should always come first in our lives. For Mary and Joseph, God was central, even before the Birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph were raised in devout Jewish families; they had an ongoing relationship with the Lord. Thus they were predisposed to hear God’s voice and respond to His will, even though it meant great sacrifice for them. Their lives were informed by faith.

The Christian family is the first cell of the whole Church. It is the place where we begin the journey toward holiness and become more fully human. The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us. He was born into a human family.

The Holy family is bound by respect and humility

Joseph was never seen expressing His anger on Mary rather he was always with her. Mary was never seen insulting her husband nor disobeying Him. When Jesus was also found, he never disobeyed, like in John 2 at the wedding at Cana; rather he obeyed them and went home with them. This should be the guiding principle of every family. Every family must be bound by mutual respect.

Finally Joseph humbly accepted God’s will and obeyed by following wherever it led. Joseph’s humility and trust in God placed him fully in God’s hands while not fully knowing what that would mean for him and for his family. As Christians struggling to live as holy families, we too must humbly pray to God and try to be obedient to wherever God leads, all the while trusting that God’s love and mercy is the source of our life and our salvation.