Much of what we believe about Jesus of Nazareth testifies to his uniqueness. Divine, Son of God, miracle worker, healer, wise teacher. But on the Feast of the Holy Family we are reminded of how much he held in common with us.
Jesus was born into and raised among a human family. Mary and Joseph were not royalty or wealthy, but ordinary people. The gospels are remarkably circumspect about Jesus’ early life. Short of the infancy narratives and the story of Jesus in the Temple, there is really nothing. As Pope Francis recently said, the life of Jesus before his public mission has been left up to the imagination of artists, musicians and popular culture to fill in the blanks.
And so the Church gives us this feast day to ponder the nature of that Holy Family and the role it played in Jesus’ life. It is reasonable to presume that this was a normal life, filled with the usual comings and goings, trials and tribulations, good times and not so good. Its very ordinariness underlines the connection with our own lives and our relationships with our parents, children and siblings.
More important, though, is the place of the Holy Family in reminding us that the family is the domestic church, the first home and nurturer of Jesus in our midst. This family is not meant to be relegated to holy cards or icons, but to be an ongoing call to each of us to consider each day how we can welcome the Lord into our homes.
Pope Francis, in his General Audience of Dec. 17, drove home the duty of every family:
“Every Christian family – as Mary and Joseph did – must first welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, shelter Him, protect Him, grow with Him; and in this way, make the world better. Let us make space in our heart and in our days for the Lord. This is what Mary and Joseph did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to overcome! It was not a false or unreal family. The family of Nazareth calls to us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family, of every family.”
-Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director