Renewing the Family from Within: An Invitation on the Feast of the Holy Family.
Today on this Sunday within the Octave of Christmas (that is, the Sunday within the eight days beginning with Christmas day through January 1,) the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Our celebrating of the Holy Family both invites us to reflect on the virtues of each person within the Holy Family, and to ask for blessings and graces from them.
As we celebrate this feast, it is no secret that family life as God desires it to be (so that he can shower it with blessings) is in extreme crisis in our age. The issues behind broken and dysfunctional families are many. Add to these issues the fact that such brokenness and dysfunction is increasingly becoming the new “normal” – as many people simply accept that these realities, such as divorce, seem to be here to stay and therefore do not question them. Furthermore, other challenges to family life continue to arise and gain momentum – particularly within the agendas of “gay rights,” so-called “gender identity,” and related initiatives. It is clear that the true beauty and blessings of family life
have been forgotten by many, or are seen as too rare to appear as real for most.
Yet, as we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we see how God’s plan for family is a sharing in the fullness of life that God desires for all of us. This fullness of life is seen in each of the persons of the Holy Family in both “good times and in bad.” Joseph, as husband and father, was given God’s guiding hand to lead the Holy Family to safety, to guard them, and to provide for their daily needs – even at times of confusion and difficulty, especially in fleeing to Egypt. Mary was blessed in her motherhood to nurture our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, tending to all that is good within motherhood – along with feeling the sorrows of seeing her Son be led away to death. Jesus learned from Joseph and Mary, remaining obedient to them and always honoring them – just as he would be obedient to his heavenly Father’s will, accepting death on the cross. Indeed, all of us hope for the blessings, but do we embrace the trials?
As I write this column, I reflect upon an insight that I received in prayer some time ago which has come to mind again more recently in the fallout of the scandals in the Church. I want to share this insight as a means for all of us to see how to renew our families from within. The insight for me was this: that as I was praying and asking God to help me to be a more faithful priest – and in this context of family, a better “spiritual father,” – that I should not fear to also invite all of you, readers of this column and members of the faithful, to pray for the grace of God to be more faithful in your vocation within your family. Simply put, all husbands and fathers might pray daily for that grace to be a better husband and a better father; all wives and mothers might pray daily for that grace to be a better wife and a better mother; all children to be better sons or daughters and brothers or sisters. By praying for these graces, we ourselves can grow in both our imitation of the Holy Family and our reliance upon them to renew us and our families from within.
I pray that each of us will accept this simple commitment to daily prayer for our own good and the good of each of our families – that we can renew family life from within and that our “normal” will be in doing the will of God, exemplified by the Holy Family.