By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
The basic unit of society is the family. And so, when the family is weakened, the whole society crumbles. This is what Pope St. John Paul said: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Nowadays, we clearly see how the family is being attacked and undermined by the culture of death. There are concerted and systematic efforts to destroy the family. Even the concept of a family is now being questioned. More people want to change the concept of marriage and family. They want to define marriage as the union of two persons, even of the same sex. Some even want their dog or cat to be included in the concept of family.
This Sunday, a few days after Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this celebration, the Church reminds us of the true meaning of family.
God is a family of Three Persons: Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When the Son of God was made man, He was also born into a family. The Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – is the perfect reflection of the Eternal Family of the Triune God. The family, therefore, is not just a human creation; it is God’s will and design from eternity. And the Holy Family is presented before us as the example and inspiration for a truly meaningful family life.
It could be said that the Holy Family was extraordinary and thus exempted from the trials and troubles that our families regularly encounter. But that is not true. Joseph was an ordinary carpenter who had to provide for the needs of his family, making sure the Son of God is well provided for. Definitely, he had economic problems. There was also real problem with security and safety. King Herod was looking for the Child in order to kill Him. He used all the resources of his kingdom to hunt and kill Jesus. Joseph and Mary must have spent sleepless nights in extreme fear. For a time, they had to live as refugees in a foreign land. They were not exempt from all the problems and difficulties that families experience.
However, there is one thing the Holy Family was exempted from: sin. The Child Jesus is the Incarnate God; Mary was the Immaculate Conception; and Joseph was a just and pious man. That is why, despite all these problems, they lived in total peace, complete harmony and perfect love because sin and evil had no chance to enter and create trouble in the family.
Today let us fix our gaze on the Nativity scene: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They are the perfect models for our families. Let me share with you two important points that may help our families follow the example of the Holy Family. First, love must be the binding force that should unite and nurture the family. And love is a matter of giving, not taking; it is total self-giving, without selfish motivations. In the first reading, we see how Hannah prayed for a child. In her old age she received a child, Samuel. But she did not keep him to herself. She said: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.” (I Sam 1:27-28). Immediately after weaning him, she brought him to the Temple, and gave him to the priest Eli as an offering to the Lord.
In the Gospel, Mary received Jesus in her womb. She was fully aware that Jesus does not belong to her alone. The incident in the Gospel highlights this. Jesus was left behind in the Temple. Mary and Joseph were looking for Him for three days. These three days of anguish made it clear to Mary that she would eventually lose Him, a foreshadowing of what she would experience when her Son would be sacrificed on the cross. She did not complain nor did she demand any explanation. In humble obedience to God, “she kept everything in her heart.” She received her Son Jesus, but she was also ready to give Him up to God.
When family members learn to forget their selfish interests and begin to truly give and share – first to God, and then to one another – they experience genuine love that binds them together more closely in unity and perfect harmony. Selfishness destroys and divides; love and giving build up and unite.
Second, we must always realize that our family comes only second to God. In the Ten Commandments, the first three commandments are all about obedience and faithfulness to God. Only then did the command to honor and obey our parents come in fourth. In our readings, it was possible for Hannah to give her child to God, and Mary to offer her Son Jesus on the cross because they were certainly aware that God is the first priority in life. The family only comes in second.
Our families nowadays experience many troubles because we often forget this truth. Every time we put God on the side in favor of our family, we always encounter more problems and difficulties, simply because we do not observe the proper order of priorities in life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Family ties are important, but not absolute” (#2232). What Jesus did, no matter how painful it was to Mary and Joseph, was a powerful lesson: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).
If we really want our families to survive these terrible and trying times, we must put God first and above everything. In doing this, we place our families under the loving embrace and protection of the Eternal Family of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless and protect our families now and forever. Amen!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Diocese of Novaliches