To understand today’s celebration, the Holy Family, requires that we begin start from the beginning of Salvation history. In immediate response to the sin of Adam and Eve, God began to reveal his plan. We know well how he prepared his chosen people with signs and miracles. We recall the message of the prophets, which fostered a longing for the coming of the Messiah. We know of our savior’s birth in time and how, at the age of thirty-three he suffered, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven in order to redeem us.
We are so familiar with God’s plan for our salvation that we sometimes forget that it was not His only option. God did not have to save us this way. He could have simply, by Divine fiat, declared us forgiven and welcomed into his kingdom. He could have entered our world, not as an infant, but fully grown. He could have come, not in weakness, but with an immortal body. He could have come, not in poverty, but as a King.
The fact that we know God’s many options for saving us saved us (and many we cannot even imagine) the method he did choose should focus our attention all the more. Today we pause to reflect on the fact that God chose to enter our world and bring about our salvation by being born into a family. His choice points to the inherent nobility of the family, which is further elevated by His presence.
The family’s inherent nobility has been noted by many. For example, St. Augustine saw in the family a most poignant manifestation of God’s inner, trinitarian, life. In the family, the free, total, and faithful love of a married couple is, of its very nature, open to the generation of new life, a third person. The union of husband and wife, creating a child, gives us a glimpse of the eternal, free, total, and faithful love of Father and Son, manifested in the third Divine Person, the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder, then, that God should choose such a noble institution as the way to enter into our world. By doing so, though, he added an even greater dignity to the life of the family. The relation of man, woman, and child remains a reflection of divine love; however, Christ’s presence within family life transforms it so that it also becomes an instrument of salvation.
What does that mean, practically? It means family life is meant to help us get to heaven. Through our relationship with parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins, we help each other grow in holiness, encouraging each other in the Christian life. We pray together, go to Mass together, and help one another to receive the Sacraments. Parents prepare their young children for Communion. One day, when their parents approach the end of their lives, their children bring them Communion in their homes. In many and varied ways the relationships of family life provide us opportunities to grow in God’s grace and draw near to heaven.
Today, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family, we ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, that their Divine Son, become the center of our own family’s life.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!