The Holy and Ideal Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Readings: (1st: Sir 3, 2-6. 12-14; Ps: 127, 1-15; 2nd: Col 3, 12-21; Gos: Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today the first Sunday in the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. She presents us with the ideal or role model after which every family should be fashioned. The family as an institution which is the nucleus of society has suffered greatly in our time, and consequently, the society at large has suffered too. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the fabrics of the family are speedily been corroded and eroded away by the acidic, deadly and unprecedented culture that has seriously threatened this institution.
Some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl after being consoled and encouraged by her mother to go ahead with her project, brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” The man was embarrassed by his earlier over-reaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They are all for you, Daddy.” The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there. In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses… from our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, family members, relatives, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than the love that comes from one’s family. Also, there is no other precious gift that the world could cherish more than the gift of Family that God gave to us.
All the readings of this Sunday are carefully selected instructions concerning an ideal family and the duties of each member in order to maintain the sanity and sanctity required in a family. The first reading from Sir 3: 2-6. 12-14,in a nut shell speaks of the need for children to be responsible and obedient to their parents: “He who honors the Lord respects his parents.” The reason is obvious; they are the representatives of God to their children. A child who does well by obeying the good counsel of his parents is highly rewarded with great blessings both from God and from his parents. Hence: “…Whoever respects his father 1s atoning for his sins, he who honors his mother is like someone amassing a fortune. Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own.” In other words, in an ideal family, it is the role of children to make their parents and God happy. When they do, definitely a blessing follows them as Paul admonishes us: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honour your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth” (Eph 6, 1-2). In the second reading Paul outlined the qualities and virtues a Christian and an ideal family should possess to guide and sustain it. “…You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and in humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.” Of course, he did not forget the greatest of all virtues: “Over all these…put on love.” In a Christian family each member knows his duty, boundary and onions. If each carries out his / her duty well the unity and love of the family blossoms. If the father and husband love his wife and children by caring, protecting and providing for them, he wins their favour and admiration. If the wife and mother give way to the father and m nurture her children well, things will go well. Finally should the children play their role of obedience to the latter then a Christian and happy family is the end result. But where these are lacking, nothing works and the family breaks down.
There is no other time in history that the stability of the family has been threatened more than in our age. This is the age when the father has almost lost control of “the steering” of the “automobile” called family in which the society, nation and the world at large ride. It is a time when the world has dubiously and shamelessly tried to redefine marriage and family from the union of man and woman and their legitimate children, to the union of man and a fellow man; woman and a fellow woman and of course with “borrowed” or “adopted children”. What a shame! This does not and will never make a family. It is rather a corruption of the institution ordained by God himself. This is why the church calls us especially to reflect again and again on this God-given- institution through which He (God), regenerates, revitalizes and sustains humankind and the world at large; this institution which is as old as creation of the world and ordained by God himself. It is the ideal and role model for all who fear the Lord and work in his ways. What are we to emulate from this holy family? They include unity, love, commitment, willingness to survive as one entity, solidarity at moments of difficulty, good morals, peaceful co-existence, etcetera. These are among the essential qualities that our “modern day families” lack and of course, this is the reason we are have lost grip of virtually everything we have and ought to be happy about. This is why our generation appears to be bewitched with all sorts of evil because we have neglected and abused this wonderful system instituted by God himself ab initio. To allow this institution or God’s product of love to undergo any form of “mutation” in the form of modernization or secularization is a sin against God and Nature. We must therefore ask ourselves on this great day, is this the will of God, and do I actually have a family that I am proud of? We all need our family because Nemo sibi nascitur (no one is born for himself alone)!
The gospel according to Matthew (Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)presents us with the difficulties that could befall a family and also how they could be overcome. It reminds us that problems and obstacles are inevitable in a family but if the members remain united and courageous they will definitely overcome them all. It also throws a great light on the fact that the father is very important in a family. Of course, he is the protector and defender of the family in the face of adversaries. Joseph as we see today played his part very well and is a role model for all fathers. Mary also played hers very well by providing the tender, loving, care and succor the baby required throughout the course of the rough journey. On his part, the little Jesus was not problematic. Even in his infantile nature, he understood the difficulties of the presents at the time and so remained calm throughout the journey in the dessert. He was not disobedient! In life problems are inevitable and so, we must not allow them to tear our families apart. Instead, they should strengthen our unity and love for one another. Furthermore, one more lesson we must learn from Joseph and the Holy Family in general is that we must not delay action when danger or difficulties come knocking. Joseph acted fast and so averted the danger of having the little Jesus killed by Herod. Fathers must live up to expectation; they must listen to God, and must learn to act fast in faith.
An ideal family is therefore, a family fashioned and modeled after the Holy Family of Nazareth comprising of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. An ideal family is made up of father (husband- male), mother (wife – female) and of course Children (male or female, if it pleases the Lord). It is a family that sticks and prays together. It is a family that though having differentiated roles all work and walk together in harmony. It is a family where respect and dignity is accorded each member. An ideal family must have love, health, work and God. In an ideal family all the members are happy. They understand, love and help each other. Husband is the bread winner of the family. All members of the family share difficulties and responsibilities. Money is important but it cannot make a happy family. On the contrary, a poor family is not an ideal one. In other words in an ideal family there balance because in its entire ramification. This is the model of the family that the church presents to the entire world today and wishes that her faithful emulate it.
Peace be with you!