One thing I so much admire about the Catholic Church is the liturgical calendar in relation to the civil calendar. The various feasts we celebrate during each year are not randomly picked; the choice for each date comes from careful and prayerful reflection. There is a special reason why each feast is celebrated on a particular day.  For example, the feast we celebrate today is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This feast is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of the year, that is, the last Sunday of December. But when the last Sunday of December falls on the 25th, that is Christmas Day, this feast is celebrated on the Friday after Christmas, which is the 30th of December.

Why the choice of this date for the celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph? It is because the church is inviting us at the end of the civil year to have a retreat, and to take stock. The church invites us to have this retreat as individual families. The family is the basic unit of the human society. The Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes, 48 reminds us that, the Creator of all, made marriage the foundation and the beginning of the human society. In his post-synodal exhortation, Familiaris consortio, John Paul II refers to the family as ecclesia domestica, that is the domestic church. So, the family is the foundation of the society; the larger society is what the family is. Would you like to have holy and wonderful priests in the future? Begin to produce them in the family, do not wait for the seminary. Do you want to have holy nuns? Do you want to have great presidents, sincere political leaders, caring/responsible parents in the future? They are produced, not in the universities but in the family.

According to some psychologists, after the age of five, the child does not learn anything new, the child would only build on what the child learned from birth up to age 5.  So, the family is the foundation of the society. As we reflect on our individual families today, the Church invites us to look at the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph as our model. In the liturgical year, each member of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph has a special feast dedicated to them. What we celebrate today is the feast that commemorates the three of them together as a family. This feast gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own families in the light of the Holy Family.

The gospel passage for today, from the gospel according to Luke presents an event in the life of the Holy Family, which can help us to narrow down on an aspect of our family. It is the event of the finding of Jesus in the temple. The members of the Holy Family went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage and on their way back, they realized that Jesus was not with them at the end of the first day. The parents of Jesus made a U turn and went back in search of Jesus. One point that comes to mind from this story is the need for us to always work as a family. At the end of each day, the retreat for each family should focus on finding out which member of the family is missing. Before we go to bed, it is our responsibility to ensure that the family is as complete as the family was at the beginning of the day. Being complete as a family is not only in terms of being physically complete but also emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc. If anyone is missing, like Joseph and Mary, we must make a U turn and go back and pick that family member. You cannot be proud of doing well as an individual if at the same time a member of your family is not doing well.

As this civil year is ending, before we move on to the next year as a family, the church invites us, to also look back to be sure no one is missing. The family is under attack. The devil knows that the best way to bring down the world is to attack individual families. We must fight back like Joseph and Mary by going back to pick Jesus up from where we left Jesus. Any family without Jesus is not complete. As this civil year comes to an end, we ask ourselves as individual families, where is the position of Jesus in our family? As we struggle to make sure everyone is educated, as we struggle to make sure everyone has the right certificate, as we struggle to make sure that everyone is doing well financially, as we struggle to make sure that everyone is doing well in the society, we must also ensure that everyone is walking with Jesus, that is the only way we can win the battle that the devil is fighting against us.

My dearly beloved Christ, as we celebrate the Holy Family today, in a special way, we remember families that are in crisis, we remember families that have done everything humanly possible to bring all the members of the family together unsuccessfully, that through the intercessions of  Mary and Joseph, and through the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, families may come together again to enjoy that beauty that God has created for every family, until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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