Christian family is very much tried and challenged in our contemporary society. Christian values are at risk in the pluralistic society in which we live. There are so many separations and divorces among couples.
There are so many irregularities in marriage and family life. Many have married more than twice in a short period of time without the death of one of the spouses. In some instances, some children in a family come from different fathers or mothers without adoptions. To make it worst, in the society, some are advocating for same-sex marriage. All of these are against the indissolubility of marriage and the Christian definition of marriage institution ordained by God to be between man and woman, with children coming from that sacred bond. This is why the holy church in her canon law defines marriage as a covenant which is a total sharing of life and love.
Today, we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is the Holy Family of Nazareth, a model for all Christian families. What makes this a holy family is the presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ. The holy family is a school in which we learn how to pattern our family life and love. Mary and Joseph were specially prepared by God to be great instruments through whom his son, Jesus Christ would enter into human experience. God made Mary to be immaculately conceived in order that nothing impure would touch his son. Mary was full of Grace, humble and simple, always willing to surrender to God’s Will. God made Joseph the chaste guardian of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of his Son, Jesus Christ. He became a silent worker, humble, simple and made much sacrifices to provide for Jesus and Mary. Both Mary and Joseph shared life with the Son of God in the Holy Family.
As a holy family, they too had trying moments. Such moments were when Mary was found to be with child before they came to live together (see Matthew 1:18); they lived and experience poverty-manifested in Jesus’ birth in the stable (see Luke 2:1-20); their flight into Egypt (see Matthew 2:13-15); Jesus’ lost in the temple when he was twelve (see Luke 2:41-52); the persecutions against Jesus in his earthly ministry, etc. As the holy family, they weathered those trying moments with love and complete trust in God; they always sought the Will of God in every circumstance.
Our contemporary families have not experienced greater trials than the holy family of Nazareth. For the preservation of our families, we must learn from Jesus, Mary and Joseph their characteristics and the lessons they have taught us. To help us learn from them, the wise man of the Old Testament tells us that the Lord sets a father in honor over his children, just as he confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.
To remain in this great honor, fathers must learn from St. Joseph how to be fathers; mothers should learn from Mary how to be mothers. Children must learn from Jesus how to be obedient to parents and inherit blessings from God. To imitate the virtues of the Holy Family of Nazareth, St. Paul details for us what we must be doing to foster peace and growth in a family or Christian community. Everything must be done in union with Jesus Christ with the motive of worshipping God through him. For peace to reign in every family, the members must have heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Each person must bear with one another; members must always forgive whatever grievances they have against one another in imitation of Jesus on the Cross. Love must be their motivating factor resulting to thanksgiving at all times.
In the famous passage of Colossians 3:12-21, St. Paul enjoins on husbands and wives to have mutual love and submission. Children on their part must be in obedience to their parents. Each party must be Christ-like, doing the same thing which Jesus did, even in his equality with God the Father, by submitting himself to human authority. To show his great love on the Cross, he prayed for his enemies. This perfect love of Jesus Christ is not for us to just know about, but to be practiced in our day to day living. We must be Jesus to one another in order for our families to endure and stay united.
Rev. Fr. Michael Onyekwere, SDV, PhD