Sir 3:3-7,14-17; col3:12-21; Mt 2:13-15,19-23
We are still in the afterglow of Christmas. The beautiful scene of Bethlehem, marked by simplicity and splendour, has the power to tap the deepest springs of human tenderness and love in every person’s heart. That is why Christmas has always been a season of peace, joy, love, unity, fellowship, compassion and service. At Christmas time people spontaneously reach out to one another in a spirit of reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, compassion and fellowship. Even the strangers in our midst are made to feel quite at home, accepted, loved, appreciated and valued. The mystery of Bethlehem has such a spiritual power to transform reality, to transform the world, to transform the human society by transforming the human heart.
It is, therefore, very appropriate and meaningful to have the feast of the Holy Family so soon after Christmas, indeed, within the very octave of Christmas. We are still in the Caver of Bethlehem. We are still gazing with wonder on that enchanting scene. We are still meditating on the meaning of Christmas.
What do we see in Bethlehem? Nothing extraordinary! A poor man, a poor woman and just born infant in a manger, with a few animals in the background, with animal noises, animal stench and animal fodder everywhere and a group of lowly shepherds gazing in a puzzled wonder and unspeakable inner joy and tenderness. That is what we see with our human eyes and natural gaze. But our faith tells us that, this is not an ordinary event. Here the extraordinary is intertwined with the ordinary. This child is not any human infant. This is the Son of God become man. This is the Incarnate Word of God in human flesh.
And, therefore, we can make sense of this incomprehensible mystery only in the content of Incarnation. They mystery of the Incarnation tells us that. “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Beloved Son to us.” It was God’s eternal plan that humankind must be a family, God’s family, built on a network of relationships cemented by mutual respect, mutual love and mutual service. Out of this respect, love and service for one another would spring unity, peace and fellow feeling.
Every human family, therefore, in the plan of God, is a cell in that larger family, the whole human race. When every human family on earth becomes truly a family built on relationships of mutual love, respect, sharing and service, then the whole of human society will be radically transformed and a deep sense of brotherhood, fellowship, freedom, peace, justice and unity will flourish everywhere. But this can be possible only when we as individuals, families and communities truly and deeply experience God as a loving, caring, compassionate and forgiving Father, whom Jesus taught us to call “Abba.” It is to make this possible that Christ came into this world, and by being born in a human family, growing up in a human family, reaching adulthood in a human family, taking upon himself the joys and sorrows, struggles and sufferings, pains and problems of a typical human family. And so doing, He has rendered all our experiences as families, both pleasant and painful, redemptive and salvific, thereby making every human family a cradle of holiness.
Therefore, the Holy Family of Nazareth is a model and example for every human family. The hallmark of the Holy Family was that Jesus was at its centre and all the other aspects of life at Nazareth were in and through this central figure, namely Jesus. Family prayer, family work, family togetherness, family meals, family recreations and family celebrations were all centered around the person of Jesus. So it has to be in a true Christian family. Christ has to be the centre of our life. As a beautiful and very popular quotation puts it: “Christ is the head of this household, a welcome guest at every meal and a silent listener of every conversation.” If only every Christian family would follow this simple rule, how happy, peaceful and united our families would be!
Every time we gather around the Eucharistic table, we do so as brothers and sisters, members of one family, God’s family, with God as our common Father. To be church is to be the family of God.
May Jesus, Mary and Joseph teach us to love one another as Jesus loves us so that we may truly be brothers and sisters to one another building our families as model Christian families.