Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. This is no coincidence that it is put right after the feast of Christmas. This is so because it tells us that God has not just come to be born into the world but born within a human family to stress all the more his identification with our humanity . This is part of the Christmas story. The late Pope John Paul II would also have something to say about this. In his letter to Families written in 1994- the year of the family, the Pope wrote: “The divine mystery of the Incarnation of the Word thus has an intimate connection with the human family. Not only with one family, that of Nazareth, but in some way with every family, analogously to what the Second Vatican Council says about the Son of God, who in the Incarnation “united himself in some sense with every man“(#2). This then calls us for a celebration. This also calls us for a reflection on the family.
It is true that the family still is and remains to be the very cell of the society. It still is the nucleus of every society. However, we are also aware of the fact that the family right now is facing a great challenge to keep up. Just an example. In the Philippines, I’ve just heard recently that the Reproductive health bill is now passed into a law. The Church in the Philippines is so strong against it. The Church did her best but her best wasn’t good enough to borrow a line from a song. The Church has tried her best to remind the Filipino people of the repercussions of the bill once it becomes a law. The Church understands that this can lead not only to denigrating the value of women but also to motherhood because it offers artificial contraception. This can also lead to seeing children not only as surplus but unnecessary baggage, atscommodities in the family, to seeing women as a thing to be manipulated, to encouraging young people to be irresponsible and careless in their bodies. This can lead to many unlikely things that are completely up and against the law of God. I might be talking baloney here. I will not be surprised if married people come to me and tell me: ‘It would be right for you to say that father because you don’t have to pay your mortgage, you don’t have to wake up at night to change your baby’s nappy, you don’t have to pay rent, you don’t have to make ends meet as the month is ending.’ And so on.
Yes, I humbly admit that. I don’t have to worry much about it. But this is not an excuse for us not to strive for the best and the ideal of family. This is not an excuse for us to go back to Nazareth and reflect the type of family where our God has been nourished and nurtured. This is not an excuse for us to go back to the School of Nazareth and learn how it is to be a truly human family pleasing to God.
We heard in our gospel from Luke that Jesus ‘increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and (people)’ [Lk 2:41-52].Like any other families on earth this growth wouldn’t happen overnight. Jesus has come to learn this from the examples of his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. So this is then an invitation to parents to live by example to your children. When you enter married life you have made this commitment not only to welcome children as part of your life but to nurture them as good Christians, as good citizens.
This feast also calls for the children to be responsive, responsible and respectful to their parents. I once read or heard somewhere of a child telling his parents: ‘It is not me who is looking for parents. It’s you (his parents) are looking for a child.’ It’s true but it’s not an excuse to be naughty. It is not an excuse to be disrespectful because a child is God’s gift to a parent. As a gift comes responsibility to be a good gift and that can give happiness to the recipient. This is the kind of life that God wants us to live if we take it from the St John in our Second reading today: obeying God’s commandments, living a life with an examined and informed conscience, be comfortable with God in our life even if at times we feel and think he is not to comforting for us.
Our First reading today would also offer us a way to become an ideal family, a reflection of the Holy family in Nazareth and that is to offer the children to God. This means putting God as an important member of the family. This means allowing God to help you make decisions for the whole family. This means making the family a venue wherein God’s love, care, support, compassion are truly evident and alive. This means constant feeding with and reflection on the Word of God, constant nourishment in the Eucharist, and constant prayer as a family.
Today’s feast then is a time for each family to reflect and go back to the Holy family of Nazareth, to unlearn, to learn and re-learn the things that God has designed and willed for each of the human family through which he came into the world. Amen .