Holy Family
Year C

Bear with one another

The California condor is an endangered species of wild fowl. There are probably no more than 30 of them left. While condors are no prettier than vultures, we still owe it to ourselves not to let these great birds become extinct.

Early in 1982 a certain naturalist actually saw a condor hen lay an egg in a nest at the mouth of a high cave near Ventura, California. Condors usually produce only one egg a year. So the news of this event brought delight to scientists and bird-lovers. Experts from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and from the National Audubon Society hastened to the spot where they set up observation posts at a discrete distance. If a bird were born, this would add one more member to the waning condor population. The United Press International headlined the whole story day by day.

Condor parents take turns incubating eggs. Unfortunately, this cock and hen started almost at once to quarrel over whose turn it was to sit. While one was incubating, the other would try to push it off. In the midst of this bickering, which grew ever more violent, one of the big fowls accidentally kicked the precious egg off the ledge. There is no way of knowing how the parent condors felt about this loss. The observers almost went mad. The only ones who profited by the accident were the crows which found the shattered four-inch egg a tasty treat.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. Sometimes human parents also let personal claims distract them from their main duty to raise their children attentively. When they fail in this duty, they are far more blameworthy than the bickering birds of our story.

St. Paul was speaking to intelligent human beings when he taught them "Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against each other" (Col. 3:14. Today's second reading) Father, Mother and children should think first of each other's needs; and then over all the other family virtues "put on love".

Model for all happy families was the Holy Family of Nazareth. At its very center was Jesus who was Love incarnate.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q247: Why were Mary and Joseph so "worried" (Lk 2:48) about Jesus? After all, he was the Son of God, wasn't he?

There are various versions of scripture used to translate the Greek word which tries to show the concern expressed by Mary as "greatly distressed" (Interlinear), or having "great anxiety" (NAB), and looking for him "anxiously" (RSV). All of these words convey the concern of any parent over the apparent loss of an only child. In those days of kidnapping and sale into slavery of humans, the anguish would have been doubly evident. We need to remember that Jesus was human; Mary and Joseph were human; and therefore they would have experienced human emotions and normal human reactions.

And yet the response of Jesus is puzzling. This puzzlement of both Mary and Joseph is captured in what we call the "fifth Joyful mystery" of the rosary, the "Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple." Jesus, the boy, was indeed both divine and human; and yet he had to grow, like you and me, in his humanity. As scripture puts it, he returned home to Nazareth with them, and "increased in wisdom" (v. 52).

We also need to take special note that Jesus lived under their "complete authority" (or, was "obedient to them" - NAB) when he returned to Nazareth (v. 51). Jesus spent his spiritual childhood under the total care and protection of Mary and Joseph. What does that say to you and me? Are we ready to live under the authority and protection of Mary and Joseph? Have I ever consecrated myself, and my family, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The obedience of Jesus to his mother Mary and foster father Joseph is a virtue that needs to be learned by all children (CCC #2216-17). It also gives a lesson in obedience to all adult Christians, who need to submit their wills to all lawful authority, including the Magisterium (CCC #532), provided they are not issuing directives contrary to the demands of moral order (CCC #2242). We know nothing of the so-called "hidden years" of Jesus, from his babyhood until his public life, except for this one important incident when he was age 12. Could it be God's will that this revelation about "authority" was more important than any other event during those years (CCC #534)?

Q404: The Holy Family had some obvious "advantages" that we don't have. How can we possibly be like them?

Today's readings are rich in reflections on the ways we can enhance our family life. Do we not all agree that family life, family love, and family peace are great priorities?

The first key to "being like" the characters in our readings today is to recognize that God is at the center of their lives, their reason for living. Once we grasp that fact, then we can orient our own lives in similar fashion: without Jesus at the center, our family life will deteriorate.

A second "key" to watch for, the characteristic of unselfishness. Hannah (1st Rdg: 1 Sam 1:20-28) was a very prayerful woman. She prayed for a son, and fulfilled a promise to dedicate him to God. Her only son, yet she was willing to give him to God. There is a third "key" to watch for. Mary and Joseph (Gospel: Luke 2:41-52) were aware that the child Jesus was the Son of the Most High, the promised Messiah (Lk 1:32; Mt 1:21). Yet they could still be "anxious" for his safety. So they searched for him together.

God-centered, unselfish, and always working together: three keys to imitate! Yes, we can be "like" the Holy Family and Hannah in these aspects of life, with the grace of God. So if our family life is not peaceful, loving, and burden-sharing, then we need to refocus on those keys to see what needs to change in our lives.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Like Hannah, are you eager to help your son pursue a vocation as a priest (CCC #1578)? As a parent (or child), are you watching for those "glimpses" given to you that your own son must eventually "be about his Father's work" (CCC #534)? Are both of you, as parents, aware of your joint responsibility to nurture a vocation in your sons (CCC #2223-5)?

Did You not Know that I Must be in My Father's House

Both Sirach and Colossians tells us how to live a life pleasing to God. They stress the community virtues, especially love which holds us all together in one body. Both apply this message to the relationships of parents and children.  While the family is the context for learning God's ways, it is not an absolute. Obligations to God can supersede family obligations. In today's gospel we learn of the Holy Family's pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the return trip they find Jesus is not in the caravan. On finding him teaching in the temple, Mary says," Why have you done this to us?" His response "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? "Jesus does his Father's will but he does not deny his family obligations for he returns with them and was obedient to them."

Lord, help us to live like the Holy Family, united in respect and love. Teach us the sanctity of human love and the value of family life. Help us to live in peace with all. Help us to find you in the service of God as Mary and Joseph fond Jesus fulfilling his vocation in the temple.