Some may remember this feast as being celebrated during the Octave of the Epiphany. Then in the 60’s, when the liturgical calendar was revised, it was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas as we have it today.
So, what exactly is a family? By definition:
A family is most commonly understood as a group of people who are related to each other, parents and their children.
Sometimes when people about a family, they mean children. (They decided to start a family.)
Or sometimes when people talk about their family, they mean their relatives and ancestors.
of animals or plants is a group of related species and so on.
What then is the significance of the title HOLY FAMILY? Here we have a father, a mother, and a son living together as a family. What makes this family Holy is who they are, and the way they are brought together as a family – it is by God’s divine intervention; it is God who brings Joseph together with Mary as husband and wife. Mary conceives Jesus in her womb, but not by Joseph’s seed. Jesus’ Father is God, Jesus is God’s Son. Joseph will be a father to Jesus, by caring for all his needs, helping him to grow healthy and strong.
These are the mysteries of faith that have been the focus of our meditation in these recent holy days. Today’s focus on the Holy Family helps to reinforce for us the vital role and importance the family has in God’s creative plan – his plan for the continuation of the whole human race, and his plan for the human race to ultimately be formed into one heavenly family.
Now if God has an enemy – and indeed he does, legions of enemies, then attacking the family must be priority number one for his enemies, as we see beginning with the murderous undertaking of king Herod.
The unifying bond of the family is love; husband and wife, parents and children. The family is the womb of love and the school of love wherein we learn that life itself is dependent on mutual caring, one for another. This priority of mutual caring carries over into the whole of society, making it healthy and strong.
Our generation is experiencing a toxic atmosphere for true family life; a climate of selfish, self interest, “Me first and only as long as I like it”. This mentality is proving to be lethal to the family. That makes today’s feast all the more important for us to commemorate.
Here are three ways we may do this.
1. To gather as families of faith in worship and prayer, thanking God for the gift of his Spirit who fills our hearts with divine love and teaches us how to love one another.
2. Filled with that love flowing from the Holy Family, let us be instruments of compassion and healing, in our families and others, where the absence of love has wounded and divided.
3. To be both sign and advocate in our society for all that strengthens and advances authentic family life as modeled in the Holy Family.