When I reflect upon The Holy Family, I think of my Dad, who shared with me an extemporaneous speech he watched the Pope deliver at the Festival of Families in 2015. My father was amazed with the address because it was unpracticed, but also because of the Pope’s message about how Jesus came to us. God chose to come into the world amidst a human family. He didn’t arrive to us in a Chariot, or in blazing Glory, or with fireworks, or with any fanfare whatsoever.
When God sent his only son to the world, he sent him to a family. A family! And an ordinary family at that. From Nazareth. Nazareth! Nothing could be more ordinary (See John 1:46).
Jesus arrived without fanfare and material comforts in a place one could not describe as an earthly paradise. Why would God, filled with great love for us, send his only son into such an ordinary existence, in such an inconspicuous way? We all know what real families are like. There are problems, struggles, challenging relationships. Day in and day out. Mary and Joseph certainly experienced challenges and had to find a way through it all. They endured gossip, uncertainty, and poor conditions. But they did so, together, through love and grace.
I think that’s how God intends it to work. It is in our families that we receive great love…and mercy. That is how we overcome the difficulties, through understanding, forgiveness, love, and grace. And we learn how to be loving and how to be merciful and how to accept grace by living, day to day, in our ordinary families. Pope Francis described this as the family being “like a factory of hope. It’s a factory of resurrection. God opened this path, this possibility.” Truly, the family is a path to holiness.
But not just the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. All of our families are Holy. It may not feel like it, but that’s why God created the family. All families are called to holiness, and holiness is possible in all families. You have seen it! When forgiveness repairs discord, when tenderness lifts up the downtrodden, and peace reigns in the home (sometimes only when the children are sleeping.) Holiness is when we serve each other, take care of each other, and share in God’s grace. This happens every day in ordinary families where we can be ourselves, allow others to be themselves, and truly come to know each other at our most vulnerable. Holiness in fact, can be quite simple and ordinary and that is the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: the Holy Family.
For 30 years the Holy Family lived an ordinary life. We do not hear about miracles, or preaching or healing during Jesus’ infancy, childhood, teen years or young adulthood. What happened during those 30 ordinary years? Lots of cooking, dishes, laundry, whittling, yard work, spilled goat’s milk, missed curfews, crying, and maybe some cursing. But also teaching, learning, praying, dreaming, hugging, encouraging, rejoicing, serving and loving. Day in and day out, holiness is possible.
So let us strive in our human family to make love normal, not hate; to make serving others commonplace, not indifference or enmity; and to make room in our days, in our hearts, and in our communities for holiness. Our Holy Family, with the hope we have in our children, and the wisdom our grandparents impart, is our future and strength.
The family is how God chose to share his love with us. He created the Holy Family, His, yours and mine.
Reflection by Pat Cremer
“Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness,” is the theme for the next World Meeting of Families to take place in Rome June 23‐27, 2022.