The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and JosephGospel: Luke 2: 22-40
How relevant is the Holy Family of Nazareth for families in our world today? What is the Good News for us as we reflect on the Holy Family in today’s Gospel story and other stories presented in the Gospels?
We begin our reflections with the image from today’s Gospel of the poor young couple, Mary and Joseph, presenting their 40 day old baby for Consecration in the Temple. They are fulfilling the Jewish Law of Moses: “Every firstborn male must be consecrated to the Lord”. From the experience of baptism in our own Christian tradition we can imagine how joyful this celebration is, how full of hope the young couple are for a bright and happy future for their baby. Then the shadow of Simeon’s prophecy hovers over the event: “You see this child: …he is destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too…” One of the most painful experiences for any parent must be to see their child rejected, left out of things, side lined. As we reflect on the bewilderment of Mary and Joseph as they hear these words, we bring to mind the many couples who fear from the start that their baby will be perceived as different.
We pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be with them and comfort them. Help them bear this sword of sorrow as you did. We ask your blessings on those who are there ready to support them.
The other images we have of the Holy Family in the Gospels are mainly ones of stress and pain: we get a glimpse of the struggle that Mary and Joseph experienced when Mary became pregnant; Joseph, stressed and wondering how he was going to handle the situation, until God intervened and showed him the way. How many couples find themselves in similar situations when faced with an unplanned and perhaps unwanted pregnancy?
We Pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be with them in their difficulties, in their shock, and in their distress. Help them realise that this baby too is part of God’s mysterious plan for them. Help them bear this sword of sorrow as you did. Your blessings also on the agency workers whose call is to support them.
We then meet Mary and Joseph, homeless and looking for someplace, anyplace to shelter, so that Mary can give birth. The beautiful crib images that we see throughout the world completely disguise the pain, the blood, the mess and discomfort of giving birth. We bring to mind all those women who have to give birth in unsuitable environments – women who are homeless, in refugee camps, fleeing for their lives in flimsy overcrowded boats, and those who, notwithstanding the facility of a maternity hospital, must bring their babies ‘home’ to the streets, to emergency accommodation or to Direct Provision.
We pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be with those people who are homeless or seeking asylum and are expecting a baby. Support them in their guilt and desolation to know they can be good parents in spite of their circumstances. Help them bear this sword of sorrow as you did. We ask you to bless the many throughout the world who offer support to people who are homeless and those in Ireland who do likewise – Peter McVerry Trust; Merchant’s Quay staff and volunteers; Simon Community; Brother Kevin and his helpers.
Now we see the family of Jesus getting up in the middle of the night and fleeing as the life of their precious baby is in danger. We need to try and imagine the terror of that journey and the relief when they cross a border into safety so we can empathise with the thousands of displaced people on the move around the world. Yes, there is great relief when they reach a place of safety but then the struggle for a different kind of survival begins: coping in a foreign land with strange language and food, finding a place to call home, and often encountering contempt and rejection.
We pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, calm the terror of all those forced to flee for their lives. Be with them in their heartache and their struggle to survive in a new and sometimes hostile reality. Help them bear this sword of sorrow as you did. We ask your blessings on those whose call it is to support them: Refugee Councils; Marie Williams and the Dominican Justice Office; Spirasi; Crosscare; The Red Cross and many more.
Is the Holy Family of Nazareth relevant to our world today? Absolutely. These few examples from the life of the Holy Family highlight just how much relevance it has for families in our world today. Reflecting on the parallels between then and now brings Good News to light. Just as we read of God’s protection of that special family then, we see God’s protection of families now – realised through the concern, care and practical help of so many people: families, friends, neighbours and agencies throughout the world.
We Pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as we celebrate you, the Holy Family of Nazareth, we present to you the many different kinds of families in our societies today. Help them identify with the happy and sad events of your life and to know that you have gone before them rejoicing and weeping just as they do. Help us to be a compassionate, loving presence to them so that, through us, they may experience the Good News that God is with them in their joys and in the mess and pain that is part of family life.
Sr. Marie Redmond OP