The Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Twhen they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
This feast developed at the beginning of the 19th century in Canada and then spread to the entire Church in 1920. It is a Feast that seeks to portray the Holy Family of Nazareth as the “true model of life”.
If there is a fact that is striking when reading today’s Gospel text, it is all the “motion” verbs: depart, arise, flee, take refuge, stay…. There is even a map that is no less impressive: Bethlehem, Egypt, then Nazareth. Certainly, the key to all this “movement” is found in the citation of the Prophet Hosea: “Out of Egypt I have called my son” – a place of refuge for the persecuted and the place of departure for Israel’s Exodus. The Family of Nazareth thus traces the journey of many persecuted people and refugees down through history. At the same time, it recalls the powerful hand of God who knows how to liberate His people.
The experience of the family of Nazareth cannot but make us think of the many families today who are also “in movement” – certainly of those families forced to leave their homes and their own land in search of peace, serenity and work, but also of those families who live with the apprehension and anxiety of not making ends meet, of unstable marital situations, the fear of illness…
In the family of Nazareth, our families, as well as the human family, can learn to allow ourselves to be guided by God’s powerful hand. If it is true on the one hand that in many situations people feel like “refugees”, “strangers in their own homes”, or in the heart of a dear one, it is also true that every obstacle, every difficulty can be transformed into an opportunity to “depart”, an opportunity for a “journey toward conversion” which alone can lead to serenity, peace, stability.
Today, the Holy Spirit still continues to guide “all peoples”, “all couples”, “all parents”. But we need to listen to the Spirit who speaks in us. If the Son of God came to live with us as a child, and only the eyes of faith can perceive His presence, how important it is to remind ourselves that everyday things are never of little importance, that daily occurrences are never useless or purely coincidental. The eyes of faith are necessary to grasp the hidden and the beyond. Everything becomes a “place” to encounter or reject God’s presence. Everything is a sign for those who believe.
To live the gospel of the family is not easy today. Those who want to defend life from the moment of conception are criticized or attacked. Yet in the Gospel we find the way to live a beautiful life on the personal and familial level, a way that is certainly challenging, but attractive and all-embracing. It is a way that still deserves to be trusted and undertaken after the example and through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth itself. There are happy and sad, serene and difficult moments in every family. This is life. To live the “gospel of the family” does not exempt us from experiencing difficulties and tensions, of encountering moments of pleasant fortitude and painful weakness. Families who are wounded and marked by weakness, failure, difficulty…can rise again if they learn how to draw from the font of the Gospel. There, they can rediscover new possibilities of starting over.
Heaven is our Goal.