The Holy Family was a family who lived profound hope: Jesus, Mary and Joseph trusted completely in God. They call all of us to that same kind of trust. In our own time they stand beside all who worry and struggle, all who search and pray. The Holy Family stands besides parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare. They walk with immigrants and refugees separated from those they love. They comfort teen-age mothers and single parents. They console prisoners, the outcast, the bullied, the scorned – and the parents who love them. And they offer solace and compassion to parents grieving over the loss of their children.
The Holy Family shares our burdens and uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone: they endured any hardships through the grace of God; they prayed and hoped; they trusted in God’s will and help. Surely we could ask where we can find the same kind of peace and purpose in our own families and lives.
An answer is given in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The second reading for today is at times used for weddings. Like Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, it speaks of love. Paul was not writing about romantic love. Paul was writing about how to form a healthy and holy Christian community. From his words we can draw lessons about how to form a healthy and holy Christian family.
Paul tells us to put on compassion and kindness, lowliness and meekness, patience and forgiveness, and love. It is all that simple, or all that difficult. The Holy Family must have moments when living those virtues or ideals was hard. But they persisted; they listened to angels, dreamed and entrusted themselves fully to the hands of God.
We have a model for living in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We need to see them in full, remembering the closeness of poverty, danger and the cross: we see the manger because there was no room in the inn; we see the flight into Egypt in fear for the Child’s life; we see the anxiety over the loss of the twelve year old Boy. We see the quiet simple life in Nazareth where the Child Jesus was subject to his parents and “increased in wisdom and age, and in divine and human favor.”
Through any challenge, anxiety, difficulty or danger, they showed us how to be people of faith, people of forgiveness, people of love.
The Holy Family teaches us how to be holy. They had happy times; they had difficult times. Through doubt and insecurity, in peace and joy, in good times and bad times they trusted in God. They did not understand Simeon’s prophecy about the Child who would be “the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel,” who would “stand as a sign of contradiction while a sword would pierce [your] own soul.” Though they did not understand their Child as in the loss and finding in the temple, they trusted and “kept all these things in their hearts.”
Our own lives are similar, our present and future with similar doubts, questions and uncertainties, with good times and bad times. We hope we can live our lives with similar trust in God and love for one another.