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A Reflection on the Holy Family
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 05 Jan 2020

              (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Mt 2:13-15, 19-23).

Christmas is a family feast. So, the family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus is at the center of Christmas to remind us of many things. In the plan of God that God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, be born as a child in the family of Mary and Joseph, God renewed every human family. Enrobed in dignity and grace, marriage and family should not end there: making our families to be visible signs of God’s grace is no longer optional.

In the truth that we know regarding the family, today’s first reading is a confirmation of the benediction attached to the fourth statute of the Hebrew decalogue. We refer to the “treatise of wisdom” contained in the book of Sirach as Ecclesiasticus, because of its use for the training of the youth entering the Hebrew community services in Jerusalem. It is rightly the book of the community of families conscious of their obligations to the moral life as commanded in the Sinaitic covenant.

The psalm and second reading deepen the reflections raised in the first reading about esteem, honor, and blessing placed upon the family. Those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways form a chosen race of saints. They bear with one another, and they learn to forgive the faults of one another in the interpersonal relationships forged in the family. Not only that honoring one’s parents still is the symbol of the fourth commandment addressing conduct in the family, but it also depicts righteousness and character. When Paul aligns this value with his call to all family members – wives, husbands, and children, Paul makes the same word of God in Sirach analogous to Gospel. It is “the same message of Christ in all its richness” (Col 3:16).

The message of Christ in its fullest richness is what we ponder in Matthew’s highlights today in the Gospel. The concrete orientation attuning real family life in this context is instructive. ‘Take the child and his mother and go;’ and ‘So Joseph got up and taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt.’ This is the clearest statement of raw family life: its organic character, it's bond of love, it mutual responsibility, primary openness to procreation and the upbringing of children. These identifiers of marriage all meet here. They affirm the wisdom of Sirach and the exhortation from Paul. But today, what do you say is the family? All fun?

My friends, we have often imaged the holy family in the amazingly glorious stained-glass windows of Cathedrals. We cherish fancy postcards of the Holy family where Joseph and Jesus rounds off the chairs at the workshop, while Mary does her delicate hands on the yarn and the loom. Oh, the beautiful rose gardens that overlook the Holy family windows, and the plumage of the birds singing across by the lilies! Did you notice the hurry of Joseph and the dread of a new Pharoah, King Herod? What about the slaughter of the innocents? Have you thought of the unplanned escape to Egypt, a foreign country? If you have linked all these to the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, then one more thing remains. Put it now on record, that when the Holy family returned from Egypt, it was to settle “in a town called Nazareth.” This Nazareth was in Galilee, a dispised settlement mainly inhabited by foreigners (Is 8:23-9:1; Jn 1:46). Now, think again: what did you say is your ideal family?

Celebrating the Holy family in Igboland should make us joyful and fill our families with hope. The family is strengthened and also invigorated by what it suffers and overcomes. In our challenging times today, may we imitate the constant example of patience, resilience, and godly trust of the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.




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