In this Octave of Christmas we celebrate the central mystery of our faith in the Incarnation as the Eternal Word became flesh and “made his dwelling among us.” On Christmas day we celebrate the first part of the mystery of the Incarnation, “the Word became flesh”, in celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus. On Holy Family Sunday we celebrate the second part of that mystery as we see that the Word “made his dwelling among us.” The Eternal Word descends from God and becomes flesh, not just to “appear” in the world like an angel sent from God, not to “visit” the earth as a stranger and sojourner among men, but truly to be born of Mary and make a home among us in a human family. The Son of God enters into our world in a truly human fashion and becomes one with the human race, alike us in all things but sin, and belongs to the family of man through his birth and his growth in grace and stature in the home at Nazareth. Jesus truly has a place in this world, though we will see throughout history that this place is often precarious and threatened by the darkness and evil that still shroud our world. Like so many other children of this earth the very life and existence of Jesus is threatened by forces of sin and evil that attack the human family and create starvation, violence, forced migration and homelessness, human trafficking and slavery, disease and death. The hope that Jesus had of growing to full maturity in his human nature lay in his parents and the love that would compel them to establish a home of love and safety.
This Sunday in the Octave of Christmas we celebrate the Holy Family, especially Mary and Joseph, who as good and faithful parents give their lives to protect and nurture Jesus. The home of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth becomes the place where the Eternal Word will make “his dwelling among us.” This home is certainly more than a building that becomes a “roof over his head”. The family home begins in the hearts of a mother and father who commit themselves to a way of love in faithful marriage. They take up the call of God to offer their lives in service to one another and to the children that God entrusts them with. They listen to the Word of God and find their joy and their nourishment in the Law of God. We see the qualities needed for this rich, committed relationship of love and respect in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these 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. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col 3,12ff) Mary and Joseph truly create a space where the Word, Jesus, may dwell richly in their home.
In the reading from the gospel of Luke, we see Mary and Joseph making the journey to the Temple in Jerusalem to comply with the Law and to make an offering of first-fruits, their first child, to God who has blessed them with this precious life. Jesus is redeemed through the offering of Mary and Joseph of two turtledoves and Jesus returns with them to the home at Nazareth. There in the home of Mary and Joseph he will learn what all children must learn in order to have a full and abundant life. Jesus will learn wisdom from his earthly parents. He will learnthe wisdom of love that teaches us to lay down our lives for others and to forsake a selfish and self-centered life and truly be other-centered in our life. He will learn the wisdom of truth that comes from the Word of God and his beautiful law. As Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col 3,16) Through this wisdom Jesus will learn obedience to truth, faith and the authority of love.
The beautiful life of the Holy Family and the peace of the hidden life in the home in Nazareth becomes a place where the Word, Jesus, may dwell peacefully and where he will be cherished, nurtured, grow to maturity and bear fruit. We pray through the Holy Family that all of our family homes may be such a place for God’s children to grow. Love, obedience to God’s Law, participation in the life of the Church and holy wisdom are all needed to make our homes true dwelling places for the Word of God, now dwelling in the hearts of our children. May God bless all families today as they strive to become true dwelling places of peace and shelters of love.