Today is the 6th day of Christmas! It is still entirely appropriate to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! At our house, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, culminating on the Feast of Little Christmas, or Epiphany on Jan. 6. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.
There are just a few references to the Holy Family at the beginning of each Gospel. However few, these Scriptures give us a treasure trove of wisdom for families. One of my relatives says that she couldn’t relate to the Holy Family, in particular to Mary, because Mary had one child and He was perfect! I disagree. It is such an encouragement to me as a wife and a mother that God decided to come into the world through a family. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and born into a family in a little manger in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7).The life and example of Mary and Joseph and Jesus as their son, offers us ample opportunities to reflect on our joys and struggles as families. As in all of Scripture, it is important to pray to the Holy Spirit and read between the lines to discover the word God has for you today. So on this feast of the Holy Family, let us reflect and glean some wisdom.
The 4 Ps of a holy family:
The Holy Spirit called the Holy Family together. When we consider the events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus found in the first and second chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke we see that both Mary and Joseph were open to the Lord’s voice spoken through His angels. Mary’s yes to the angel (Luke 1:26-38) and Joseph’s yes (Matthew 1:18-25) changed the course of human history. God called and they responded to that call with their “yes”. It is not always easy to say yes to God. God asks a lot of us as families; to be loving and faithful in the midst of a difficult world. But I believe the secret to Joseph’s and Mary’s yes is revealed to us in Luke 2:19; “Mary pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart”. Picture Joseph and Mary exhausted from the stress of travel, anxious about giving birth in a stable and trying to process the whole event. Then in comes these shepherds recounting the announcement of the angels regarding the birth of the Son of God (Luke 2:8-20). The words of the shepherds reminded Mary and Joseph of their own angelic visits and announcements. This Holy Family was built on a foundation of prayer. Joseph and Mary were prayerful people. Today, let us follow the example of Joseph and Mary and pray. If you have never prayed before meals, start with grace. Thank God for all His blessings, especially for the blessings of one another. Every holy family begins with prayer.
In Luke 2:22-40, an ordinary event for a Jewish family turned out to be an extraordinary move of God. This gospel recounts Mary and Joseph presenting their child to the Lord with the ritual offering of two turtle doves. Here they encounter two wise people, Simeon and Anna, a man and woman of prayer, who see God’s plan of salvation in the baby Jesus and share their prophetic utterances with the Holy Family. Here, the Holy Family teaches us to present our children, indeed our whole family to the Lord so that we too can see God’s plan at work. Most of the time, we struggle with seeing God at work in our families. But when we present and surrender them over to God, we see how much He loves them. Then too, God reveals some of the wonderful plans He has for all of us. Another gem in this scripture comes through the prophecy of Simeon. Simeon tells Mary that a sword shall pierce her heart. Every parent can relate to that “sword piercing the heart” kind of love that is described in this scripture. I relate to this scripture every time I laid my daughter down on the operating room table. I present her to the Lord, making the sign of the cross on her forehead. Each time I have done this, I have felt those swords of a mother’s sorrow pierce my heart. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Holy families present and surrender each other to the Lord.
The flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18).
Again we see Joseph hearing from God through the message of an angel in his dreams. The angel warns him to flee to Egypt to protect Mary and Jesus from the wrath of Herod, who plans to slaughter the innocent children. Joseph teaches us to moves when God speaks. In the celebrations of the Christmas season, the Church commemorates this event with the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This year especially, I felt moved to use this feast to pray for the families who lost their innocent children and loved ones in the tragedy of Newton, Ct. As I spent the afternoon in prayer for these families, I was struck with our need to do all we can to protect our families from the violence and degradation of our society. Through caring for our families’ health in mind, body and spirit, curbing evil influences of violence in media and by imparting the message of love in the Gospels, we are protecting our families. Holy families protect each other by listening to the Lord, following God’s commandments and loving one another.
The finding of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41-52).
Have you ever left one of your kids at a gas station or lost a little one in the aisles of a retail store? Most of us can relate to the anxiety of losing our children for a few moments. Some of us can relate to finding them missing for hours, maybe even days. And unfortunately there are those among us who have lost our children to death. Each of these experiences carries with it their own levels of parental anxiety which ultimately is rooted in the fear of losing children forever through death.
Mary and Joseph shared this anxiety when they realized that their 12-year-old son was not travelling in the group with his relatives. They persevered in their pursuit and did not give up until they found him. When they finally found him teaching in the Temple (not a normal occurrence for most parents of 12 year olds), Jesus assures him that He is just doing what He was born to do. Then, Scripture says that “Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52).
Raising kids causes anxiety, even for the Holy Family. But the Holy Family teaches us to persevere. As Mary and Joseph persevered in praying for, presenting and protecting their most precious Son, so too we must persevere in our lives to build a holy family of our own. Holy families persevere.
How holy is your family? If it is anything like ours, your holy family struggles with wounds and hurts, with compulsions and negative influences that threaten to tear us apart. But every family has one big thing in common with the Holy Family. With the Holy Family, we have this one foundation and hope; “With God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:36)
Celebrate your holy family today!
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at email@example.com andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.