The Sunday after Christmas, is part of the continuing celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, as the Church invites us to honour the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The readings of the day reflect family relationships. In the first reading Samuel (1:20-22, 24-28) we are told that Hannah presented her child to the Lord, just as Mary and Joseph later presented Jesus. The second reading (1 John 3:1-2, 21-2) shows us how as God’s children, love is lavished on us and we are called to share and pass on this love to one another in our families. The Gospel of Luke (2:41-52) re calls the annual pilgrimage by the Holy Family to Jerusalem, the loss of the boy Jesus, and Mary’s finding of her child among the wise teachers there. This was an upsetting experience for Mary and Joseph, and one that many parents can relate to as they worry about the ‘whereabouts’ of their children. Mary and Joseph were shocked to lose Jesus for three days and then had to deal with the puzzling and less than satisfactory explanation that he “had to be about his Father’s business.” In this story of mutual misunderstanding, we can feel quite close to the Holy Family of Nazareth. They were real people, who had to negotiate their daily ups-and-downs, just like every other family.
During the World Meeting of Families, August 2018 in Ireland, many of the families shared that in times of difficulty it was the love and trust between them that sustained them and in this they could draw strength from the family of Nazareth in their times of trouble.
Today we place all families in the care of God, and pray that families everywhere may grow in love and trust, and like Jesus, “grow in Wisdom and Grace.”
Pope Francis words, as so often, go to the heart of what it is to live family life in all its struggles, sorrow, hope and love:
In families, there are difficulties. In families, we argue; in families, sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches…But in families, there is always, always, the cross. Always. Because the love of God, the Son of God also opened for us this path. Because of this, the family is – forgive the term I’ll use – it is a factory of hope, of hope of life and of resurrection. In families there are difficulties, but these difficulties are overcome with love. Hate doesn’t overcome any difficulty. Division of hearts doesn’t overcome any difficulty. Only love is capable of overcoming difficulties. Love is a festival. Love is joy. Love is to keep moving forward.
And even though the Year of the Family has concluded, the words of its cornerstone prayer come to mind in celebrating this Feast of the Hoy Family, as we call on God the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name and pray we will be one family in the Spirit of God’s love:
“Bless us with the joy of love. Make us patient and kind, gentle and generous, welcoming to those in need. Help us to live your forgiveness and peace. Protect all families with your loving care, especially those for whom we now pray … Increase our faith, Strengthen our hope. Keep us safe in your love. Make us always grateful for the gift of life that we share. This we ask, through Christ our Lord, Amen.