Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
"In imitation of the Holy Family, every Christian family must make a place for Jesus in its home. For it is through the love of such "normal" families that God's Son quietly comes to dwell among us, bringing salvation to our world" — Pope Francis, General Audience, December 17, 2014.
Everyone has seen the Christmas movies about bad dads and absent mothers, right? The ones where Santa, or the elves, or the ghosts of relatives, or the spirit of the season, or pick-your-otherworldly-intrusion in our oh-so-materialistic world bounce into peoples' lives, remind everyone of the importance of family at Christmas, and bounce back out again?
Why on earth do we need the reminder? Because we've forgotten about the seven deadly sins, or excused them as a culture. Because we're so focused on the rights of the individual that we've neglected the responsibilities of the family member, or the citizen, or the worker. Because we forget that the Church and human nature both demand that we help serve the common good, not just the good of those we want to serve.
Because for all the talk about how important family is, we so often fail to live it.
So we need a model, a guide to how to be holy in our families again. The Church offers us the Holy Family as that model.
Now, when the Child is Jesus, the mother, Mary, and the father is Joseph the Just Man, the model can seem impossible to imitate. And yet there's a lot to be learned from them, all the same. Even that family had a really hard time. Unusual circumstances surrounded that child's birth (read: the couple was engaged, though not married, and the Child the woman is carrying is not the man's biological child). The couple almost divorces before the Child is even born. Due to government tyranny, they must make a long journey on the eve of their child's birth; due to government persecution, they must flee from their homeland into Egypt. Throughout their lives together, their Child can be called both "special needs" and gifted. By turns wise beyond His (human) years and at other times needing special help to face a fallen world (for why else would God the Father have ensured for God the Son two of the holiest of humanity as parents?), the Child would have needed unusual amounts of love and care.
And how were Mary and Joseph able to give that love and that care? By their sanctity. By their reliance upon God's grace and faithful effort to obey Him, they received the gifts they needed to be good parents, good spouses, good people beyond any others. They were able to console the Heart of Jesus beyond all others, and even more, were able to teach Him, raise Him, train Him to be the man that His heavenly Father could call "my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17, 17:5).
So as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 28, let us ask their intercession for our own conversion and the conversion of our society into a true civilization of love, based on healthy, holy families.