This year, on Dec. 26, the Sunday following Christmas, the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family.
In the lectionary Gospel story (Matthew 2:13-32) an angel warns Joseph to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt, before the innocents are slaughtered by King Herod. After Herod’s death, the angel advises Joseph that it is safe to return with his family to Israel.
The Holy Family faces many trials and challenges. Mary gives birth to a baby who was not fathered by Joseph. At the time the child is born, the family is traveling and far from home. Herod orders the massacre of the children in Bethlehem, where Mary and Joseph are living, forcing them to flee their native land for Egypt.
The members of the Holy Family were not financially wealthy, but they were rich in virtue. This feast reminds us of the strength of Joseph, who supported his family by working, and whose devotion to Mary and Jesus serve as a great example for all husbands and fathers. It also celebrates the faithfulness of Mary and her obedience to the will of God.
As members of Christian families, we can always look to the Holy Family for inspiration as we live out our faith in the world, much the way they did, although we do so in a different time and place.
Like the Holy Family, we sometimes struggle to support our families, and to keep them well-fed and clothed and sheltered and cared for. We can do our best to devote ourselves to one another, just as Mary and Joseph focused their attention on each other and on the well-being of Jesus. Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we can strive to discern and discover God’s dreams for us, so that we, too, can follow the will of God.