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Celebrating Family Virtues: Reflecting on the Sunday Gospel

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Brother Silas Henderson, SDS - published on 12/27/15

Today’s celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, is much more than a child’s celebration of an outdated devotion or Christmas card sentimentality.

Living the Word

Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family (Year C)

December 27, 2015

Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

—Luke 2:51–52

To read this Sunday’s Mass readings, clickhere.

During his historic trip to the Holy Land in 1964, Pope Paul VI reflected, “Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand the Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him” (Address on Nazareth).

The Church has consistently understood that, through Jesus’ hidden life with Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, God blessed the family, which shares in the Church’s prophetic task of proclaiming “aloud both the present power of the Kingdom of God and the hope of the blessed life” (Lumen Gentium, 35).

Today’s celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is much more than a child’s celebration of an outdated devotion or Christmas card sentimentality. As the Collect for this Feast observes, we honor the example of the Holy Family and ask for the grace to imitate them “in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity.”

It was in this spirit that Pope Benedict XVI, during the recent World Meeting of Families (June 2012), encouraged reflection on the Family of Nazareth: “Pray often for the help of the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph, that they may teach you to receive God’s love as they did. Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing — it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world.”

Ultimately, this vocation to love is a fundamental element of the Christian life: “Put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:14–15).

The Feast of the Holy Family challenges us to consider our own families, both the ones in which we grew up and the ones of which we are now a part — “It raises questions in us about the harmony of the home we’re in now — and what part we play in both its peace and its disturbance. … We must ask ourselves if we are learning from one another, caring for one another, becoming more spiritual together as we go. And if not, why not? And what do we intend to do about it, as Jesus did, for the sake of the rest of the world?” (Joan Chittister, OSB, The Liturgical Year).

Amid today’s important and ongoing debates about the definitions and nature of marriage and family, both within the Church and in broader society, this Feast reminds us of the true vocation of the family: to foster the faith of each of its members and to support them in their search for God and God’s will for them. Mary and Joseph instilled in Jesus a love for the traditions and laws of God’s Chosen People; families, parishes, and even religious communities are called to nurture the same values.

How do you see yourself as a part of the “Family” of the Church?

How can you share the virtues of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in your own family and parish?

Who in your family — both in your home and in the broader human family — stands in need of mercy? How can you be a sign of the mercy of God to them? 

Words of Wisdom: “In the loving obedience of this woman, Mary, and this man, Joseph, we have a family into which God comes. God always knocks on the doors of our hearts. He likes to do that. He goes out from within. But do you know what he likes best of all? To knock on the doors of families. And to see families which are united, families which love, families which bring up their children, educating them and helping them to grow, families which build a society of goodness, truth and beauty.”—Pope Francis

Silas S. Hendersoncurrently serves as the managing editor of Abbey Press Publications and Deacon Digest magazine. He is the author of numerous reflections and books. He can be found

Sunday Readings
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