– Miguel Augusto
It is interesting to note that after Christmas, the following Sunday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family, no later than 30th of December. Christ wanted to enter the world by a family, by the same “door” we all take, because the family is the basis of God’s plan for the existence of humanity. Jesus did not need a family to dwell among us; God almighty could have made Him come down to earth already man. But God wanted to begin in this way the work of Redemption, to restore the foundations of humankind, which fell by original sin in Adam and Eve (first family), the first marriage and couple, created by God.
Just as our first parents – Adam and Eve – were attacked by the devil, all families suffer the same attack, whether they realize it or not. Sister Lucia, the seer of Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal), received from the Holy Mother the message: “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and family.” Sister Lucia wrote this message in a long letter to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna (Italy), in which she also warned of the attacks that will confront those who defend these two natural institutions. Cardinal Caffarra reminded us of saints like Father Pio in defence of families: “I am moved when I read the best biographies of Father Pio about how this man was so attentive to the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of the spouses, even with justifiable rigour on some occasions.”
St John Paul II was also a defender of the family leaving us many of his thoughts: “The family is the privileged scope to make grow all the personal and social potential that man takes enrolled in his being. Around the family today is the fundamental struggle of the dignity of man.”
As we contemplate the Holy Family, now more visible in the Christmas Crib, we must grow in love and commitment for the defence of the family, and at the same time, the search for the sanctity that Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus mirror.
Jesus lives among the families and intends to sanctify every home and every one of us.
The Family of Nazareth lived by God and for God. It is good to yearn for this grace. The Holy Family is a source of learning and virtue, in the ways of our faith and in the detachment from the world, of the materialism that consumes us and drives us away from the Lord. Unfortunately, the new generations do not find it “cool” to have faith, and unbelief reigns in society. It is mostly the fault of families, where many only receive certain sacraments – such as baptism or marriage – by family tradition. The family should be the cradle of the catechesis of its members, in aid of spiritual growth, and of the knowledge of God and the living of the faith.
Mary Most Holy is an example for each member of our families. The Holy Mother teaches us to meditate on what the Lord tells us (Luke 2:51), and not to live with what He transmits to us and teach only in superficiality. The Blessed Virgin was obedient to God in humility and faith that enlightens our souls. This humility is reflected in her words addressed to the angel at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), as well as in the words she addressed to her cousin St Elizabeth, known as the Magnificat (Mary’s Hymn), at the time of her visit (Luke 1: 46-55). Mary lived her life entirely dedicated to the Child Jesus, the Son of God made man, and finally, to the service of the Church, which Christ instituted to bring salvation to all peoples; having been “baptized by the fire” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The Gospel shows us that the Blessed Mother must always be present in the paths of our faith; at our side at Holy Mass, as she was present in the early communities of the early church. She leads us to her Son and intercedes for us like no one else.
St Joseph was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), ready to hear and to follow the voice of God. He was a faithful protector of the Child and Mother, with the mission to guard and protect them, so often warned in a dream by an angel of God, receiving instructions and following them without delay (Matthew 1:20-21, 2:13- 14; 2:19-21). With his humble work as a carpenter, he was the breadwinner of the family, showing us the importance of work on each one’s mission.
St Josemaría Escrivá, twenty centuries later, was inspired by God to promote holiness in the work that each one performs: “Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well, without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon. That is why I will never tire of repeating that we have to be contemplative souls in the middle of the world, who try to convert their work into prayer.”
It is interesting to note the carpentry work of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. By the designs of God the Father, St Joseph familiarized Jesus with his trade, and much of His life was probably surrounded by them helping the earthly father in his work. St Joseph raised the infant Jesus in this environment, surrounded by the wooden planks. He was preparing for His Passion and death, on the wood of the cross, where He gave His life for us all. A proof of lofty love: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13), leaving us a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, shared with us a brief reflection on the Holy Family on the feast of the Holy Family on Sunday, December 27, 2009 at St Peter’s Square,. We recall some of his words: “The first witnesses of Christ’s birth, the shepherds, found themselves not only before the Infant Jesus but also a small family: mother, father and newborn son. God had chosen to reveal himself by being born into a human family, and the human family thus became an icon of God! God is the Trinity, he is a communion of love; so is the family despite all the differences that exist between the Mystery of God and his human creature, an expression that reflects the unfathomable Mystery of God as Love. In marriage the man and the woman, created in God’s image, become ‘one flesh’ (Gen 2:24), that is a communion of love that generates new life. The human family, in a certain sense, is an icon of the Trinity because of its interpersonal love and the fruitfulness of this love.”
The Second Vatican Council drew attention to the importance of the family, which is likened to a “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium), where God is present; teaching us that “the salvation of the human person and society is intimately linked to the happy condition of the conjugal and family community” (Gaudium et Spes).
In 1886, Pope Leo XIII consecrated all the Christian families to the Holy Family, and in 1893 established the liturgical feast of the Holy Family, which Benedict XV eventually extended to the Universal Church in 1921.
The Church has promoted the worship and involvement of families with the Holy Family.
Let us consecrate ourselves to the Holy Family, and ask for their intercession with the Heavenly Father for all families, so that they may be a cradle of holiness and light of the Lord for the world.