The size of the solemnity of Christmas should not dwarf the significance of the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. And the reason is not a politically incorrect exaggeration but a simple reality check: our future as a Church and as a Nation hangs in the balance.
The number of religious institutions that cling to this somber realization is dwindling: conservative Christian groups and the Catholic Church. That’s about it! For decades we had suspected that there were covert efforts to undermine the traditional family unit and replace it with new “progressive,” “enlightened” units. But, now, the proponents of a “New Order” are so embolden by their liberal achievements that they do not go through the trouble of trying to hide their intentions any more.
The basic tenets forced upon the gullible and those with the itch for novelty are: the irrelevance of God; the harm done on people by any major religion; and the absence of absolutes and fixed values. In this New Order, the ideal, utopian, pain-free societal setting is achievable, basically, by adhering sheepishly, no questions asked, to the suggestions of liberal pundits who guarantee no additional personal cost.
Well, at the risk of sounding irreparably old-fashioned, the Catholic Church insists, instead, on offering these three readings (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52) that speak of joy and fulfilment only through self-control, the experience of the cross and a high, personal cost, which seems to be always unavoidable.
As soon as Diane Licata heard of the shooting on the morning of December 14, 2012, she made a U turn and headed for Sandy Hook Elementary School where she had her six-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. Upon arriving, she asked her daughter’s teacher where her little girl was. When the teacher told her that they had been separated by the mayhem, her heart went numb and stayed numb until her daughter filed out with some of her friends and was safe in her arms. But, even as she hugged and kissed her daughter over and over again, intense anguish held her heart in a tight grip because her son was still missing. As the last children filed out and the door closed behind them, a terrible, unthinkable thought seized her and did not leave her until a simple text message from a friend told her that her son had run past the shooter, out of the classroom, and was safe at the police station.
Only a parent can fully appreciate the anxiety, the numbing anguish that Mrs. Licata felt during those hours of separation from her children. The same anguish is experienced, alas, way too often, by parents whenever there is an active shooter where their children are.
We can certainly begin to understand, then, how St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother must have felt when they realized that Jesus was missing, not for a couple of hours but for three days!.
“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Luke 2:48
What the Church tries to convey to us with this incident in the life of the Family of Nazareth is that, far from being irrelevant, God is not in any way aloof from the worst experiences that can happen in family life.
God’s own family was not spared the experience of anxiety, anguish, poverty, losses, pain, even life as expatriates in Egypt.
God’s own family was not even spared more serious trials such as having to live with the lingering thought that, shockingly, in the best possible setting, with the most sincere and abiding commitment to dedication, sharing, cooperation, and inspiring love certain aspects of life can remain stubbornly wrapped in thick darkness.
But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:50
This simple realization makes the Holy Family of Nazareth that much more relevant and inspiring to us all.
Today, we are expected to take home with us some crucial points for our consideration.
First of all that, as we can clearly read from nature itself, God has instituted the traditional family as the proper setting for each human being to be born, to grow and to be formed in.
The father’s contribution to the wellbeing and productive life of a family is different from what is a mother’s contribution.
Each one has to contribute according to his/her nature. That is why it is so hard for single mothers or single fathers to play both roles by themselves.
Secondly, God and not the government, has to be placed by parents at the very center of the family in order for each human being to be properly welcomed into this world, adequately nurtured and correctly formed.
Thirdly, everyone according to his/her competence and role has to exercise those virtues that St. Paul recommends.
Put on then, 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. Colossians 3:12-14
Any other type of family is not and must not be placed at the same level as the traditional, natural type.
I firmly believe that the Lord expects each one of us to be willing to make sizable and constant sacrifices for the wellbeing of our family, with the persistent, painful thought that some areas of our family life will remain shrouded in mystery.The Lord requires also an unwavering commitment to fight tooth and nail against anyone and any trend that undermine the sanctity of the traditional family unit; and, relying constantly on the Holy Spirit, to do absolutely all we can to make our family, as much as possible, like the Holy Family of Nazareth.