The Holy Family

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I celebrated Mass and preached at a local Milwaukee convent and the following is the gist of what I said.

St. Luke is the only gospel-writer to tell a story that occurs during the period of time from when Jesus was born to His baptism in the Jordan River when He was about 33. I wonder about that. Why was it so important for Luke to include this story? I think he did so in order to encourage and console families.

The Holy Family consisted of a sinless mother, a near-perfect foster father, and the sinless Son of God. A perfect family, and yet, they had their problems and misunderstandings as we read in Luke 2: 41-52. This fact should be a consolation to every family.

Yet Luke also challenges us in this story to see the bigger picture. In response to His mother Mary's questions, Jesus explained His behavior this way: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Jesus challenged Mary to think not only in terms of their physical or blood relationship, but also in terms of the deeper spiritual relationship that Jesus had with His heavenly Father.

We see this same challenge later in Luke's Gospel. In Luke 8: 19-21, when His mother and close relatives were unable to see Jesus because of the crowd, He responded: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." And in Luke 11: 27-28, when a woman praised Mary saying, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that at which you nursed," Jesus responded: "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." In both these cases Jesus teaches that the spiritual relationship is more important than the physical relationships of His family.

We are not physically related to Jesus yet we have a very deep relationship with Him. Through Baptism we've been joined to His Body. Through the Eucharist His Blood flows into our blood, His Body is joined to our body. In Baptism and the Eucharist we are transformed and can truthfully call God our Father, our Abba, just as Jesus did. Jesus is our Blood-Brother.

The challenge is for us to be aware of this in our daily lives, to "see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God," for "so we are" (1 John 3: 1), and to love one another as the brothers and sisters we are in Christ. This is how Christians today are a contemporary incarnation of the Holy Family.