On this Sunday following Christmas, the Church joyfully celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family, and most fittingly so. After all, is not Christmas the most significant and memorable celebration of our family life and relationship, as manifested in our reunions and gatherings for festive meals, and in our exchange of greetings and gifts? In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas is the feast of the family par excellence.
In fact, Christmas is all about family. There is Christmas because there is family. Christmas is about God who wants to be part of the human family by becoming a member of the family of Joseph and Mary. And this is all because he wants us, humans, also to be part of his own family, the Trinity. We are reminded of this tremendous exchange and crisscross between the divine and the human, when at Mass the priest recites the short prayer while he mixes the water and wine in the chalice, saying, “By this mystery of the water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
The feast of the Holy Family therefore is the feast of every family. Let us then celebrate and thank God for the singular gift of our own family today. A theology professor once said that everything we have in life is product of our personal choice, except our family. We did not choose our family; God did. And because it was God who chose our family, it may not be a perfect one, but it is the perfect choice. It is in our family that we can grow and develop fully to become what God wants us to be. It is in our family that we can become holy.
There is another reason why the feast of the Holy Family is the feast of our own family. Every family is a holy family because of its origin and its end. It comes from God. He instituted it when he gave Eve to Adam, and Adam to Eve, to be united in love for life. In the same manner, it is God who gives the couple to each other in marriage. And because their union is blessed by God, it is holy. The couple are God’s special gift to each other. And so are their children, for they too come from God. All life and love come from him.
And what is God’s purpose in establishing the family? To change the world and make it holy. Pope John Paul II reminded us that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family.” To be able to fulfill its mission of transforming the world, the family has to be holy, an authentic sanctuary of God’s presence. Only then can it bring God’s life and love to the world and sanctify it. This is what Mother Teresa meant when she said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
While it is clear that the family is essentially holy because of its origin and purpose, it becomes existentially holy when it lives out its calling. How? By following the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their life of faith and obedience. The many stories we have heard these past days show us how Joseph and Mary put their full faith in God and humbly submitted themselves to his plan. Likewise, Jesus became man and lived among us in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Today’s feast of the Holy Family teaches us how to be a holy family.
Many of you may have heard the story about a once-flourishing community of monks who through time diminished in number until there were only five of them left. The pilgrims too who used to come and join their prayers became fewer. One day, a rabbi happened to pass through, and the community took the chance to ask him what they could do to revitalize the monastery to be a spiritual center once again. The rabbi thought for a while, and then replied, “I can only tell you that the Messiah is one of you.” This set the monks thinking and speculating who could be the Messiah among them. Having no clue at all, they started to treat each other with utmost respect and kindness in order to make sure that they conducted themselves properly with the Messiah, whoever he might be. Soon the atmosphere in the community changed, and people started to come again and participate in their prayers. Some young people became interested in their way of life and eventually joined the community.
As in the monastery, the Messiah is present in the family. For God has made his home, not only in Nazareth, but in every family. Rightly then, every family is a Holy Family.
Happy Feastday! Happy Family Day!