A Family for us all

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The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist by Lorenzo Lotto
The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist, by Lorenzo Lotto (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. It is a bit of a liturgical oddity – the rubrics tell us that it is to be celebrated on Sunday after Christmas. However, should a liturgical celebration of a higher rank – such as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – land on that Sunday, the feast is to be celebrated on December 30th.

The ears of liturgy aficionados will be perking up at this point, because normally when a solemnity lands on the day of a feast, it simply trumps it but not here. In the case of the feast of the Holy Family, the Church goes to great lengths to ensure that it is always celebrated, no matter what – and that should grab the attention of us all.

In celebrating Mass today, we get to the point of this celebration quite directly:

O God, who were pleased to give us
the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them
in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity,
and so, in the joy of your house,
delight one day in eternal rewards.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever

Collect for the feast of the Holy Family

That the human family – and the family as an institution – has been broken & suffering is news to exactly no one. The first family, even before they had children, involved rebellion, scapegoating, and deception. The birth of their children, inheritors of their original sin, eventually resulted in the first murder – one child against the other. Things got bleaker from there. Every single one of us is affected, with many painful wounds readily visible in our lives and others less visible, though no less impactful. This is true even in the best of families, despite the heroic virtue and genuine effort that so many families put into creating a good home.

We know that we need a savior, personally, but Jesus goes above and beyond individual healing (though that too!). Not satisfied to simply conquer sin & death, He formed an earthly model for new and renewed family life for all mankind – the Holy Family. They offer to us both an example and an invitation, an example to inspire us and an invitation to join them. This is true on the domestic and ecclesial level – individual families and the family of the Church alike are meant to look to the Holy Family for guidance.

The first step to healing is acknowledging we need it – this is sometimes the hardest step to take. With that done, however, we mustn’t simply dwell in our brokenness. All too often, we make the mistake of focusing solely or primarily on what is flawed or lost. The Holy Family offers us another way: a chance to enter into a holy relationship with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, be transformed into the kind of family member we are meant to be, and to help others experience the same. Let us focus on Jesus, and the family He built around Himself – His earthly parents and later, the Church. It starts with spending time with them, meditating on their lives together, and responding to the call to join in their relationship with each other, through the presence & love of the Lord.

If you’re interested in further reflections on the Holy Family, you may find these helpful: