Readings for feast of the Holy Family: Sir.3 2-6,12-14. Col. 3: 12-21. Gospel. Luke 2: 22-40

In today’s reflection I’ve tried to concentrate more on today’s feast rather than any specific  Reading.

We refer to Joseph, Mary and Jesus as the Holy Family. That is a huge ideal to live up to daily. We could be tempted to think that this family are too far removed from present day families and are not helpful models. The main difference is that they lived over 2000 years ago: otherwise, we have much in common. The apparent simplicity of life for the Holy Family did not protect them from pain and suffering. Life for today’s families is probably more comfortable and maybe more complex. Despite the many means of communication, opportunities for personal development, and for seemingly impossible achievements, modern family life is no bed of roses! The role of parents raising a family can be charged with suffering and disillusion. Loyal friendly encouragement and a strong belief system can be a tremendous support. The heartbreak and joy as experienced by Emily Hand’s family demands great inner strength!

Is there such a wide gap between the Holy Family and your family?

As far as we know Mary was about 13 years of age when she was told that she was with child. She was engaged to Joseph at this time, but they did not have any sexual relations. She must have been extremely puzzled and upset when the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she would become the mother of a child.  Something was happening to her over which she had no control.  Even though Mary was so young she had very strong faith in God, and she said yes,” be it done to me according to your Word”. Joseph was totally unaware of her situation, and probably got the fright of his life when he had the dream that Mary was to be the mother of God and he was to be her husband. Like Mary he was a man of deep faith and accepted the situation. All this was arranged without either one having been consulted!

It must have been a very worrying time for them and their families. We have very little information about them from this time on. They had come to live together and set out to fulfil the law of the land by signing up for the census. They travelled this long journey on a donkey, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. One can imagine how difficult and uncomfortable this journey was! Seemingly this is a journey of 70 miles and takes about four days when traveling on foot.

Unlike the present-day mothers, Mary had no due date for the birth of Jesus: he was born near Bethlehem. Because of the large crowds arriving in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph could find no lodging and had to stay in a stable. When they had complied with all that the law commanded, they returned to their home in Nazareth, another difficult journey, this time with an infant! They had no phones, no cars, and we wonder had they access to food!

One can imagine how shocked they must have been when they met Simenon and Anna in the Temple and heard what they had to say.” Now you are dismissing your servant in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all the people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel, so that the thoughts of many may be revealed. Simeon then blessed the family and said to “Mary _ “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

I’m sure Mary and Joseph were perplexed and upset, but there was more to come. Herod who was ruler at the time, announced that all boys of two years old and under were to be killed, just in case that Jesus would grow up and take over his throne! So, Mary and Joseph went into exile in Egypt and did not return until Herod had died. During their first year together they suffered homelessness, exile, and I’m sure they had many crises of faith in God and each other. It seems that the only positive in their lives was the guidance and grace of God and their own trust in God and in each other.


                                                                                                                Cora Mc Cullagh O.P.