December 31, 2023: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph 

Feast; Liturgical Color: White


Model for Christian families

The Holy Trinity is like a family; God’s Son lived family life
Language is like currency. There must be a common understanding of its value for it to function as an effective means of exchange. When that common agreement deteriorates, wages, prices, and costs cut anchor, and economies drift. Similarly, a word can drop in value, suffer inflation, or entirely lose its meaning when a language group loses a common understanding of its meaning. This has happened to the word “family.” Some have inflated the value of “family” to mean any grouping of two or more people, or even one person and a dog. For others, “family” has lost value since their personal experiences of family life were dysfunctional and damaged their mental and emotional development. On today’s Feast of the Holy Family, the Church defends normalcy. She holds up what has always been. She offers her faithful the model of what family life should be.

Reflections on the Holy Family presuppose a lack of ambiguity on what the word family means. Common cultural understandings of marriage and family create space for more mature spiritual and theological reflection. But if a certain percentage of a culture matures without, for example, experiencing the love, discipline, and guidance of a good father, then it is difficult to talk about the goodness, mercy, and justice of God the Father. Those who didn’t have a father, or whose father was largely absent, will struggle to connect with God the Father being at the same time a judge, a source of mercy, and a font of unconditional love. The same applies to family life in general. A person lacking a personal experience of an intact family, even a family replete with tensions and imperfections, will fail to understand what “family” even means.

Today we commemorate the fact that God chose to be born and raised in the same environment as all men, when He could have chosen otherwise. We can do no better than to reflect on the beautiful and profound words of Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the 2008 World Day of Peace:

“The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family…The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society,” and a “cradle of life and love”…Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the mutual necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace…Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them?…This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.”

Holy Family of Nazareth, be a model of tranquility and harmony for all families. Give powerful graces to husbands and wives, children and siblings, to overcome differences so they can build a common life with your own as a model. Amen.

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