Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holy Family

The Holy Family is a very ordinary human family in its intense mutual love, in the specificity of its history, in the peculiarity of its challenges, and in its need to survive from day to day materially and socially.  And yet, at the same time, this very human ordinariness is precisely the sacred “space” and condition used by God to reveal his own nature as supernatural community of Persons and as absolute Source of love, mercy and redemption for all humanity. 

The particular and intimate joys and pleasures that the members of this human family took in one another were always at the service of God’s plan to save the world.  The Gospel today shows us both sides of the paradox.  On the one hand, Jesus, Mary and Joseph blend in with all other Jewish families in the way they cling to one another with love and care, conform with Jewish religious and social traditions, and generally live from day to day.  On the other hand, this ordinary human existence as a family is transformed by the presence of the divine Word, incarnate in Jesus, transformed into a vessel for God’s work of redemption.  Such a transformation requires, however, an event symbolized by Jesus’ temporarily turning his back on his earthly parents and first subjecting them to anguish before he subjects himself to them in obedience. 

The full meaning of the refrain of today's responsorial psalm, "Blessed is he who dwells in your house, O Lord!," is that God’s “house,” ultimately, is neither the nuclear human family nor the temple in Jerusalem nor any earthly church but rather the Kingdom of God in eternity.  The ultimate Holy Family is the communion of the saints in the bosom of the eternal Community of the Blessed Trinity.  It is this ultimate Family which the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph manifests to us today in a prophetic mode: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.…  We should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.…  The way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us." Truly, because of Christ’s birth as one of us into a human family, we are already living the triune life of God!  

But let us never forget that, even while enjoying such a magnificent privilege, we are the fruit of the labor-pains of Mary and Joseph, and of all others also who have birthed us into the life of faith in any way whatsoever, with immense joy, yes, but also with sharp human suffering.  Being a Christian family, too, is one aspect of the Paschal Mystery, in which death and life are interwoven until the final Resurrection and definitive victory of Life over death.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Excerpts from a Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family by Father Simeon.