THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH (JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH) YEAR A ON DECEMBER 29, 2019 (R. 1: Sirach 3: 2- 6, 12- 14; Psalm 128: 1- 5; R. 2: Colossians 3: 12- 21; Gospel: Matthew 2: 13- 15, 19- 23)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
BACK TO THE ROOT
Is there anyone here who has no family problems, no family challenges, and no family difficulties? Please, if there is, may you stand up for special recognition. Not even one person? Well, so that you know, I am also sitting down in my mind because I also have many family problems. But we are not here today to depress one another by giving too much power to our family problems. Rather, as this year is drawing to a close and a new one is about to begin, the Church is asking us: what is our idea of an ideal Church? What is our idea of an ideal country? What is our idea of an ideal world? Whatever those ideas are, the Church wants us to go back to our families to give life to those ideas, and then the ideal Church will grow from there, the ideal country will grow from there, and the ideal world will grow from there.
Today, the last Sunday in 2019 is the Feast of the Holy Family. The Church presents to us the Holy Family of Nazareth (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) as a model to help us reflect on our own families. How do we handle family dysfunction, conflict and abuse? The Church presents the Holy Family as a model, not because there were no family challenges in the Holy Family, but because of how the Holy Family handled such difficulties. Nothing good comes easy. The members of the Holy Family went through challenges, difficulties, disappointments, and grief as we do today. They were, however, able to grow through all these because they loved one another, they loved God, and they were determined to do God’s will in everything.
Imagine the emotional and mental torture Joseph went through when he discovered that Mary was pregnant, but he was not responsible for the pregnancy. And when he finally accepted the responsibility for the child, finding a place for Mary to give birth was a big challenge. And after the birth of Jesus, the family became a refugee family in Egypt to escape the evil plans of Herod who wanted to kill Baby Jesus.
Mary had her share too. The question she asked the angel at the annunciation, “How can this be when I do not know a man?” is an indication of the fact that it was not an easy assignment for her. That nothing is heard about Joseph during the public ministry of Jesus suggests that Mary became a widow at an early age. It means that the Holy Family also experienced grief even before Jesus died on the Cross. And standing at the foot of the Cross of her only son along with receiving his dead body on her lap was the apex of Mary’s suffering.
Jesus also had his share of challenges living in the family. Being God, he still submitted to the teaching authority of Joseph and Mary. But there was the tension between his understanding of the will of his Father in heaven and the understanding of Mary and Joseph as expressed in the story of the finding in the temple. At a point, his extended family got involved; they thought he was crazy, and they came to take him away from the crowd.
In spite of these challenges, the Holy Family still produced the Savior of the world. The Church, the country, and the world can only be what the family produces. Jesus lived in Nazareth with his family for thirty years before his public ministry. Whatever he learned from his family must have influenced his public ministry. When a woman was brought to Jesus because she was caught committing adultery (John 8: 1-11), the Scribes and Pharisees reminded Jesus of the law in Deuteronomy 22: 23-24 that makes provision for her to be stoned to death, but Jesus said, “let the one who has no sin be the first to cast stone at her.” Since no one was free, no one touched her, and Jesus showed her compassion and asked her to go free and to sin no more. From where did Jesus learn this? About thirty years earlier, Joseph, his foster father, did something similar. When Joseph found that his betrothed, Mary was pregnant before they came together, he quietly wanted to divorce Mary without reporting the matter to the authorities, as required by the Law in Deuteronomy 22: 23-24. Even though by law, Joseph was supposed to report the matter to the religious authorities, and have her stoned to death, he broke the Law and showed her love and compassion. As the father, so the son.
During his public ministry, Jesus taught his followers the “Our Father,” and in that prayer, he taught them to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When he was at Gethsemane, and he saw ahead all he was going to face, he prayed that the cup might pass him by, but he concluded by praying to his Father, “Not my will, but your will be done.” From where did he get this whole idea of seeking the will of God? About thirty years earlier, when the angel came to Mary and told her about her going to give birth to a son, she wondered how that was going to be since she was a Virgin, and when the angel told her of how everything is possible to God, she submitted her will to the will of God saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” She certainly taught the boy Jesus the importance of submitting one’s will to that of God.
As the family, so the Church, so the world. “Charity,” they say, “begins at home.” The family is so important, and the formation from home is so irreplaceable that when the time came for God to come as a human being, he had to come as a member of a family. Whatever you don’t’ get right from home, hardly can it be corrected outside. To make the world a better place, we must make the right investment in our families. One irreplaceable investment is that of time, quality time to listen to and understand one another, time to help one another, time to forgive one another, and time to guide one another. It sounds simple, but giving quality time to family is the most difficult and most rewarding thing we can do for ourselves. May the intercessions of Mary and Joseph, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring solutions to all our family problems, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.