December 31 – Feast of the Holy Family

Because my dad’s name is Joseph and my mom’s name is Maria, they would always joke that we were the “holy family.” This joke developed over time. Because Jesus is God and Mary is without sin, if there were any problems, she would joke that it was St. Joseph’s fault. In the same way, since my dad is a permanent deacon and I am a priest, if there were any problems, it was her fault. Of course, she was joking, but as we see in the Gospel, the suffering that affects the Holy Family is not all caused by St. Joseph.

Very often, we are tempted to see the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as distant from us. If they are so holy, how can they possibly relate to the problems that take place in our family? But this attitude is the exact opposite of the purpose of the Holy Family.

The Word became flesh and dwelt in a human family, not in order to distance Himself, but to draw closer to us. During the thirty years of His hidden life, Jesus chose to live as part of a family in order to show us how important the family is, and in order to make it holy.

But the fact that the life of this family was holy doesn’t mean that they got a free pass from everyday human life or even from suffering. At what should have been a joyful celebration of the birth of her son, Mary hears these words that no mother wants to hear, first, that her son will be a sign of contradiction, and second, that a sword will pierce her soul.

So why does the Holy Family still experience suffering? They do it for us. In all our sufferings, we can turn to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, knowing that they know what it’s like. They are the Holy Family not in spite of their family life, but because of it.

At this time of year, we often experience both the joys and the sufferings of family life. And maybe we feel that because our families aren’t perfect, because there are family members who have strayed from the faith, family members who like to fight, family members who won’t speak to us, that this disqualifies us from being a holy family. But far from being obstacles to this, they can be opportunities for us to become holy families.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph experienced the sufferings of family life, so we can turn to them for help and companionship. They did this for the sanctification of the family and the world, so when we unite our sufferings to Christ’s, it can make us—and the world—holy. We shouldn’t worry about being the “St. Joseph” of the family, but should instead strive to be like him in always being attentive to God’s plan for his family even though he isn’t perfect.

Father Frank