SFX Bulletin, 28 December 2014 Nativity scenes invariably depict Baby Jesus in a manger with Our Lady and St. Joseph gazing in wonder and adoration. While revealing not only Mary and Joseph’s marvel at God made flesh but so humbly trusting and vulnerable like any normal human infant, this scene also reveals God’s desire for every child to be in a family unit – to have a father and a mother who would protect and nurture the child.
In speaking of the family, the Catechism tells us that the family is a “natural society” where human beings associate with one another to develop human qualities like initiative and responsibility (CCC1882); it is the “original cell of society” in which “authority, stability and a life of relationships…constitute the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society” (CCC2207) and it is also a “privileged community” for it is within families that one first experiences an affinity of feelings, affections and other interests (CCC2206).
The Church proposes to us the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a powerful role model for the struggles and joys of family life. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that while the Holy Family is “unique and unrepeatable”, it is nevertheless “a “model of life” for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it…God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity” (Angelus, 26 Dec. 2006; 31 Dec. 2010 – italics are the Pope’s).
We understand from Mary’s fiat and Joseph’s obedience to the angel in his dream (cf. Lk.1:38;Mt.1:25) that both were desirous of doing God’s will and trusted in God. St. Luke emphasised this by stating six times in today’s gospel Mary and Joseph’s compliance with “the Law of Moses” or “the law of the Lord” (Lk.2:22,22, 23,24,27 & 39). They were parents who listened, pondered or searched and acted based on the Word of God and raised Jesus to do the same.
Pope Emeritus says, “Jesus was introduced by Mary and Joseph into the religious community and frequented the synagogue of Nazareth. With them, he learned to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem…When he was 12 years old, he stayed behind in the Temple…With this act he made them understand that he ‘had to see to his Father’s affairs, in other words, to the mission that God had entrusted to him”.
“This Gospel episode reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that is to accompany each of its members on the path of the discovery of God and of the plan that he has prepared for him or her. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice…From them he learned that it is necessary first of all to do God’s will, and that the spiritual bond is worth more than the bond of kinship” (Angelus, 31 Dec. 2006).
This week’s Liturgy encourages us to grow and live by such a faith. Through Mary and Joseph’s faith, Jesus “grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him” (Lk.2:40). Today’s first and second readings also emphasise the importance of living by faith, “…by faith…Abraham obeyed the call to set out….it was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive” (cf. Gen. 21:1; Heb. 11:8,11). May we re-orientate our lives and parenting-style towards faith and the Church so that against today’s trend of divorce and family break-ups, our families can be “strong with the strength of God” (Pope St. John Paul II, Letter to Families, 2 Feb. 1994) because we are unceasingly striving to let Christ live in us.