Born into a family - Feast of the Holy Family

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Marriage and family are at the very heart of human life. They have been ordained by the Creator as the way for the nourishing of human life. ‘It is not good for man to be alone’, the Scriptures proclaim in the Book of Genesis. Human beings are not isolated units of humanity. They are part of the social fabric. The heart of the social fabric is the family, which is secured by marriage as an indissoluble union.

Thus when the eternal Word became flesh – when God became man - it was within a family. And family is not just a present reality. Jesus was not only born into the marriage union of Joseph and Mary, he also claimed a family heritage. The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. This is an important statement. It means that Jesus has emerged from a long history. This history is not only physical but spiritual. His family is traced back to Abraham who was the father of a nation chosen by God as His very own. He was a decedent of King David to whom promises had been made of an eternal kingdom. 

Each of us are born into a family. We know our immediate family members. We are also the product of a long history. We, each, have a genealogy. This is a history of personalities, of experiences, of faith. We are shaped by what has gone before us. Each of us are the product of a unique history. This history is the ground to our personal existence.

This is the deeply human meaning of family.

Jesus grew up in his family. They had their own unique experiences. There were a series of extraordinary events surrounding his birth: the appearance of an angel to Mary; the specific guidance that Joseph received. His cousin, John, was ordained to be a prophet.

The birth of Jesus was in the most difficult of situations. Mary and Joseph had to leave their own town; they could find no accommodation. Jesus was born in poverty and isolation. Shortly after his birth they fled to Egypt. The life of the child was threatened. They lived for some years as refugees in a foreign land.

Jesus stayed with his parents until he was around 30 years of age. He grew up in a small village and no doubt assisted his father in a carpentry business. He knew common labour and lived a simple village life.

Once he commenced his public ministry, his connections with his family were very limited. His mother, finally, had to watch her son die an excruciating death while be publicly vilified. A sword pierced her heart, as Simeon had foretold.
Such was the journey of the family of Jesus. There were moments of joy, moments of anxiety, moments of great pain and grief. This was the story of one family. This is the story of one family who played a unique role in God’s plan for the salvation of all of humanity.

Each family has its own history and its own story. The story of each family is a mixture of moments of joy and moments of sadness. It is the story of ordinary things and moments of challenge and uncertainty. As the life of a family unfolds there are many twists and turns.

Woven in the unfolding of family life is the mystery of the presence of God. Family is the special place where God is active. Family is God’s good plan for human life. God wants to share in the journey of each family. God does not just look down in a disinterested way. He shares our joys and is with us in our sorrows.

Marriage is sanctified by the Sacrament. Thus it is more than just a human institution; it is blessed with grace. God enters the union and wants to be a steady presence within the family and in the hearts of each member. God accompanies the married couple and is a source of guidance, support and refreshment. God offers His redeeming love to the couple. They do not walk alone.
Pope St John Paul II, a great advocate of Christian marriage, said that the Sacrament of Matrimony,  like the other sacraments, has the purpose ‘to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God’ and ‘is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church’ (FC #56). The Sacrament engages a couple and a family with the saving mystery of Jesus Christ.
Marriage and family are God’s good plan for human life, and God wishes to be intimately part of the journey of every couple, and every member of a family.

This is why it is sad to see so many young Catholic couples today choosing to be married outside the Church. They do not realise that they are denying themselves the blessing of the Sacrament.

Today on this feast of the Holy Family let us firstly contemplate the place and meaning of family for our lives. Today we can pray for our own family and its particular needs, remembering also to thank God for the many blessings that have flowed to us through our family.
Pope St John Paul II prayed this prayer for families: ‘I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth… it is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families… St. Joseph was a ‘just man’… may he always guard, protect and enlighten families. May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of ‘the Church of the home’… May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity, and strength’. (FC #86)

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 29 December 2019