Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
. . . God's chosen ones, holy and beloved . . . (Col 3:12)
Growing up in Vietnam, during the era when the Communist government held strict control over the Church, our priest taught me many things about our faith and the practices of our Church so I could properly assist him as the head of the altar servers. Every Friday, instead of going home after school, I would walk to the sacristy of the parish church, where the priest was waiting for me to help him with weddings. He showed me the Lectionary with the readings, which I placed on the ambo and trained whoever read. The second reading for the Nuptial Mass was always the same: Colossians 3: 12-21, the reading we also use for the Feast of the Holy Family. Back then, I did not ask the priest why, but now, in the context of Feast of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I know. First let ponder upon the importance of this Feast on this Octave of Christmas.
History teaches us: The devotion to the Holy Family naturally grows out of a love for Jesus and His family. This devotion was popularized in the 17th century, and several religious congregations have been founded under this title. On October 26, 1921 the Congregation of Rites (under Pope Benedict XV) inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the Latin Rite general calendar. Until then it had been celebrated regionally. It should be noted that Popes before and including Benedict XV (especially Leo XIII) promoted the feast as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit. After the reform of the liturgical calendar of the Second Vatican Council, since 1969 the Church celebrates the Feast on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day (or the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God) When Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays, and no Sunday exists between the two dates, the Church celebrates the Holy Family Feast on December 30th.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state” (LG, no. 11). With this teaching, one can see why the Church has spent the past 50 years putting more of an effort in the formation of Catholics families and the Holy Family is our model.
Unlike many who think that that the Holy Family is somehow unable to sympathize with our struggles, the Church, setting the Gospel according to Matthew for this Feast, points out that this Family was certainly not free from trials and stress. The very life of the newborn Jesus was threatened by Herod’s extreme jealousy, which forced the Family to flee suddenly into a foreign land for protection until Herod’s death. Despite this challenging situation, Mary and Joseph remained united and ever obedient to the Holy Spirit for direction. Who better to turn to for help and inspiration for our own families as we turn our families into “domestic churches” where our children experience forgiveness and tender love and parents, in turn, receive the reconciling embrace of their children. Our homes are the place where the Good News is to be lived and shared with one another! In this context, I understand why my devout parish priest always picked out Colossians 3: 12-21as the second reading for the Nuptial Mass and why the Church uses it for the Feast of the Holy Family.
The Apostle addressed the early Christian family or the communion of the “domestic churches” in Colossae as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col 3:12). Just as Jesus was born into the family of Mary and Joseph and thus made this family holy, beloved, and chosen by God, the engaged couple comes to Church for the Sacrament of Matrimony and thus invites the Son of God into their marriage, and consequently they made their Catholic family “God’s chosen one, holy and beloved.”
The Apostles advised the Colossians:
Put on . . . heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The Holy Family is an example of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and gratitude, may we turn to them as we build our families into a “domestic churches.”
Families in the parish, turn to the Holy Family for inspiration, help, and guidance. May the Good News be proclaimed, lived, and shared in each domestic church because the Son of God came to earth and lived in a family. Amen.