What a Sunday, the Solemnity of the Holy Family…J.M.J., Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
There was no Catholic school in our town, so Mom and Dad chose to homeschool my sister and me. J.M.J was the first thing written on all our papers. To this day, I type or write those initials on my papers. Why? I asked my Mom this one day. Her reply was that by writing this first, it serves as a prayer, calling to mind and asking the Holy Family to be with me while I work and to make me more like each of them.
But we are talking about the Holy Family…Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…the Son of God, the Mother of God, and the man worthy enough to be chosen to protect and provide for them both. How could I live up to such an expectation? They must have been perfect! On time to Temple every time. Jesus couldn’t have talked back to Mary and Joseph, ever…could He? Mary and Joseph probably never did anything that was irksome or bothersome to the other. I am sure they never had any problems with their neighbors, financial troubles, or scheduling conflicts.
While Scripture does not reveal to us the intricacies of daily personal interactions among the members of the Holy Family, it does tell us they had their fair share of hardships, struggles, and misunderstandings. Mary is found with child before she is taken by Joseph into his home. Joseph decides to divorce her quietly. The government requires them to travel to Bethlehem while Mary is in her 9th month! There is no place for them to stay in the inn, and Mary goes into labor. They receive visitors, strangers, shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth in a stable cave. On the joyful occasion of presenting her first-born Son to God at Temple, Mary is told a sword will pierce her heart. Later, after magi from far off foreign places come to pay her Son homage, Joseph is told to get up in the middle of the night, take his wife and The Child to a foreign place because the King wishes to kill the Boy. All of this before Jesus is out of the age range when we still count life in months rather than years. But sure, they were perfect, no problems for the Holy Family. What about that time when Jesus was a pre-teen and hung back in Jerusalem without telling Mary and Joseph?
How did they do it? With extraordinary Grace from God, and with the very presence of God in their home. Yes, Mary has the singular privilege of the grace of salvation bestowed upon her before the act of salvation took place in time. Yes, Mary was prepared from all time to be the Mother of God. Yes, Joseph was chosen to be the provider and protector of Jesus and His Mother. Yes, Joseph had Angels coming to him in dreams, telling him exactly what God wanted him to do. Yes, Jesus, Himself, the Word of God made flesh literally dwelt among them in their home. Indeed, this is all very extraordinary! But is it really so far out of our reach to have our own homes and families be like the home of the Holy Family?
Mary and Joseph were made for a singular purpose in God’s plan of salvation. They each had a relationship with God, honored God’s commandments, listened for God’s will in their lives and responded in love when they heard what He asked of them. Were they given particular graces to live out the will of God in their lives? Yes. Jesus the Incarnate word of God LIVED with them! Stop and think about this for a moment. It is possible that the descriptions of Mary and Joseph could also describe you?
Each of us is made for a singular purpose in God’s plan of salvation, our own, our family’s, and those we encounter. We have the opportunity to enter into relationship with God. Free will provides us the ability to choose to honor God’s commandments. The practice of daily prayer and time for silence permits us to ask, listen, and hear God’s will for our lives. We can choose to respond in love to what we hear from God. When we worthily receive the Eucharist, Jesus literally dwells in each of us. By virtue of our Baptism, and the other Sacraments, we are given particular graces to live out God’s will in our lives. Please, do not mistake me. I, do not, wish to demote the Holy Family to just ordinary people. They were extraordinary. This was first acknowledged by God and so, too, must be acknowledged by us.
G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” Why is this the most extraordinary thing in the world? Chesterton might disagree with my interpretation of his statement, but here goes. It is because they can be a reflection of the most extraordinary family in the history of the world, the Holy Family. How? Through a relationship with God in the gifts of the Church and the Sacraments. Full and active participation in the life of the Church, in the Family of God, ordinary people are made extraordinary. They are given the graces needed to imitate the Holy Family!
In his Angelus message, December 30, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II said, “The redeemer of the world chose the family as the place for his birth and growth, thereby sanctifying this fundamental institution of every society.” God could have chosen any social organization through which to enter the world, but He chose the family. The early Church Fathers write about the family as the Domestic Church, a little church, the family of God in the home. The following link is to an excellent resource for more ways to begin building your own Domestic Church.
In closing I offer a prayer as an invitation to begin 2024 intentionally seeking to imitate the Holy Family.
A Prayer for Fulfilling God’s Purpose for Our Family
Father, thank you for creating our family with a purpose.
We know that you have plans for each of us individually and for our family as a whole.
Lord, we pray that you would reveal this purpose to each one of us and help us to live it out daily.
Help us to have an appreciation for each other’s personalities, gifts, and even our weaknesses.
Lord, teach us and guide us in all that we do, that we may glorify You.
In Jesus’ Most Holy name, Amen.