The Feast of the Holy Family

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

To be cute about it, I quote here an American humorist by the name of Evan Esar (d. 1995): “Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.”

Whether Mr. Esar was fully correct or not, there is a grain of truth in what he wrote, and there is always some truth in wholesome humor.
However, for my purpose I prefer this statement of Sir Winston Churchill about the nature of family. “There is no doubt that it is around family and the home that all the greatest virtues …are created, strengthened, and maintained.”

Over this holiday time of year we are most likely to be with family, either literally or virtually because of the virus. We can verify Sir Winston’s observation. Family also gives us the answers to most of life’s important questions.

Do you think the young Jesus had questions? Certainly He must have, because remember He took on a human nature “like ours in everything but sin.” What is one of the principal ways we learn? Through answers to questions. Through that triple-spoke process of lessons taught, example given, and experience lived, Our Lord and Savior indeed grew in wisdom and grace.

I think it is an important detail that all this happened in the little village of Nazareth. It was located on the edge of the empire, far from the high society and corruption of Rome. So insignificant was it that it is nowhere even men- tioned in the whole Old Testament. Great things can happen in humble places, as our family homes most often at- test.
Could Our Lord have had better teachers in how to handle life than Mary and Joseph? Hardly. Without any ad- vanced degrees after their names, we can say with conviction that both Christ’s parents had “PhD’s” in holiness. Mary who was declared “full of grace” by an archangel, and Joseph remembered as a “just man” in the Scriptural sense cannot be excelled at their task. The Holy Spirit has decided not to tell us if any peers taught Jesus things, but we can imagine they too played a part, for better or worse, in His human upbringing. So we stand back for a time from all our concerns to admire and celebrate this Holy Family. We can see the necessity of these thirty or so years to prepare Our Lord for His incomparable mission.

That brings up the subject of our mission. Obviously it begins in our family circle, but it has to expand from there if we are to take our Baptismal and Confirmation promises seriously. That means doing our part to tell the waiting world all about Jesus and His Good News, even if the world neither acknowledges nor cares that it is waiting. Wait- ing for something, or more accurately, Someone, beyond its own calculations to give it purpose. Taking up the ad- monitions of Sirach and Colossians, which we read this weekend, is a good place to begin. After all, that’s our way to heaven. Here is George Bernard Shaw’s take on family: “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” Think about that!

God love you and give you His peace in 2021.

Reading I: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
Fidelity to the Lord implies many virtues. Chief among them is our duties toward our parents. The traditional blessings are then listed.

Reading II: Colossians 3: 12-21
This section is an early baptismal instruction. It describes the Christian community which a new member embraces through his/her baptism.

The Gospel: Luke 2: 22, 39-40
This section points out the necessity of the Nazareth years in Jesus’ life. It was there that He grew strong in the full experience of a human nature. In that way, He could bring the Spirit of God into contact with every area of our lives.