Holy Family
Year A

Q. 299: This is a rather "abrupt" change, from the joy of Christmas to the night escape by the Holy Family. How can that possibly relate to our lives today?

Christmas Day is a wonderful day for family gatherings. We really look forward to seeing the delight in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, as they enter the "land of surprises." But after the presents are all unwrapped, memories are made and shared, and the family has feasted from a bountiful table, everyone has to go home - and "the next day" inevitably dawns. In our household that means the "Discover bill" comes, bringing us back to the "land of reality and responsibility."

We find that kind of situation in Matthew's gospel today (Mt 2:13-15,19-23). Like Joseph, we would all like "yesterday" to continue. We are joyful that the Messiah was born; we share the shepherds' delight in hearing and seeing this wondrous event; we kneel in awe at this incredible gift of the Incarnation; we just don't want the peace and joy to end. But it does end, and Joseph wakes up again in the "land of reality and responsibility," a harsh reality that causes him to flee to Egypt to escape an evil plot by Herod.

We can learn a lot from Joseph and the Holy Family about responsible relationships, no matter what reality we are facing. This family knew that all authority comes from God (First Reading: Sirach 3:2-7,12-14) and calls for loving responses (2nd Reading: Colossians 3:12-17). Joseph was responsible for the welfare of his family, and since God was the first priority in his life, he could discern God's will easily. That is also our own call: to put God first, and to be attentive to his voice. God does indeed reveal his will to us in various ways, including Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. If we have formed our conscience properly, we can see that God's will always leads us - as it led Joseph - to freely make decisions that are life-giving, not destructive.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Who and What are the "Herod's" in your own life that try to kill your spiritual journey? Our culture currently tries to be part of the darkness that opposes the light of Christ (CCC #530). Can you discern the serious errors of our culture in the fields of education, politics, social action, and morals (CCC #407)? Ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed gift of discernment (CCC #1780), and then trust in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which is guided by that same Holy Spirit.

Q. 456: What do all the stories about St. Joseph and his many dreams (Matt. 2:13-15, 19-23) have to do with me today?

Here we are, just days after the birth of Jesus, and already his parents are worried about his safety. They had their own “early warning system” – Joseph was now an expert in listening and responding to his special dreams. He had been warned by God several months earlier not to abandon a pregnant Mary. Now in three additional dreams he receives more divine directions.

First he hears, “Save the child; flee to Egypt.” Matthew is always taking pains to show that Jesus is the new Moses who “saves,” and also that Joseph has his own archetype in the Patriarch Jacob’s son Joseph, who “saved” Israel in its time of need. Next comes “Go back to Israel.” Matthew even reinterprets the prophet Hosea’s message to accommodate his purpose of showing fulfillment of a “new Exodus” (Hosea 11). Finally, Joseph hears the message “Avoid Judea,” because there is another “pharaoh” there (King Archelaus) who is as deadly as his father, the deceased King Herod.

There are many lessons from today’s readings, but very prominent among them is the lesson we learn from St. Joseph about “listening.” There are many competing voices “out there” that are persistent in getting our attention. Some voices insistently urge us to violate God’s natural law and join them in supporting abortion, contraception, euthanasia, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, and other similar vices. Other voices, such as the Roman Catholic Church, teach us the Truth and oppose those vices, identifying them as crimes against God and the dignity of the human person. You are being called today to identify with St. Joseph and, like him, listen to the voice of Truth – it will always uphold virtue and faithfully adhere to the teachings of the apostles and their successors, the Catholic bishops.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Many stories in Holy Scripture show us the opposition of Darkness to Truth, including our gospel stories today (CCC # 530). That opposition will culminate at the Cross on Calvary. Infidelity to God and his Truth lead to death (CCC #710). You have been given free will to choose either good or evil – and their consequences.