How can our families be like the Holy Family? They are so perfect, and they follow God so closely, but yet they are profoundly human. We hear in today’s Gospel how they not only lost Jesus, but they weren’t able to fully understand him. In our families, how many times have we lost Jesus for a time? How often do we not understand what he is saying or doing? The Holy Family is a human family. They faced challenges, misunderstandings, and made mistakes. Not sinful mistakes, but human ones. In their humanity, they remained faithful to God and to one another. In their humanity, they remained fruitful, open to bringing forth divine and human life into the world. Like the Holy Family, our own families need to be at the service of humanity through faithful and fruitful love.
In the Gospel we find the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph. They were faithful to one another in both their joys and their sufferings. Together they went to worship God, and together they went to search for Christ when they lost him. They were faithful to one another in the humanity of their relationship, allowing God to guide them both, together, in the ups and downs of their marriage. To be faithful, to be united in love, means that each pursues God’s will and communicates it toward one another. In the first reading we heard Hannah communicating the will of God to Samuel’s father. She explained her understanding of what God wanted, and he listened. In the Gospel, it was Mary who pondered the events of Christ in her heart. Scripture offers us examples of wisdom being given both to husbands and to wives, at different times, and they are to listen to each other in order to receive the fullness of God’s guidance by the Holy Spirit. This is true faithfulness, for husbands and wives to help each other grow in faithfulness to God.
The second quality of their love is fruitfulness. Mary and Joseph were open to God’s plan for them to bring forth new life into the world. Mary accepted the Son of God into her womb and gave birth to him; and Joseph adopted him as his own. Scripture is affirming the fruitfulness of families through both natural birth and adoption. Husbands and wives must be open to bringing forth new life into the world and taking care of children when others can’t. But Mary and Joseph didn’t stop at providing Jesus with his physical needs.
In both the first reading and in the Gospel we find parents concerned about their children’s relationship to God. We hear that faith and worship is essential to wisdom and understanding. God reveals not only who he is, but who we are. St. Paul says in the second reading, “The world does not know us, because they did not know him.” It is through a relationship with God, that our children will be truly happy as adults. We heard in the Gospel, “Blessed are those who dwell in the house of the Lord.”
As Hannah prepared Samuel to dwell in the temple, we must inspire our children to God’s service. Jesus was also prepared by Mary and Joseph for service as well. We are told that Jesus grew in wisdom and favor through his obedience to them. As parents, we must prepare our children for the mission God is calling them to. As an example, instead of asking them what they want to be when they grow up, we should ask, “What does God want you to be and do.” Through practicing faithful and fruitful love, through helping our children know and love God, we prepare to them to share in the happy mission of Christ to the whole human family.
As parents we can prepare them, but when they become adults, they will choose whether to be in the happy service of God. Many parents blame themselves when their adult children choose not to continue knowing and loving God. Parents, know that no matter how well you raise your children, the freedom to choose has been to them by God himself. He himself knows your situation, his first children, Adam and Eve, rejected the true life he had shown them. For us, we can only prepare our children for service; making sure they receive all their sacraments, baptism, confession, communion, and confirmation, making sure to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.
The Holy Family has is truly human, and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph place themselves at the service of the whole human family. They endured hatred, misunderstanding, and all the normal qualities of human frailty. But within them was something unique and special, a divine and saving love. Through being one with us, the whole human family will become holy. Like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph each of our families are called to continue that faithful and fruitful love which brings about the transformation of the world.