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Holiness is the Fruit of Sacrifice and Struggle

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Sometimes that title can intimidate people since we are called to use the Family of Nazareth as the model for home and family life. Perhaps the problem is that we have an idealized picture of it: angels whispering in the ears of Mary and Joseph telling them what to do in moments of doubt, warning them in times of danger, and so on. It’s as if they never had a doubt, never had to agonize over a decision. So how can the Holy Family possibly be a model for us?

Moreover, we tend to see the home at Nazareth as a place where perfect harmony and complete understanding were always present. It is as if the Holy Family lived on a sunlit island, cut off from the storms of life.

The Gospels do not tell us much about the life of the Holy Family. All we get are some glimpses into what it was like. But these are enough to show us how unreal the above picture is. We come to see that the Holy Family had more than its share of troubles.

When the time came for Jesus to be born, no accommodations were available. Their joy at the birth of Jesus was threatened because King Herod was out to kill their child. They had to flee to a foreign land and start all over.

Back in their own country, they settled down in Nazareth. Remember when Jesus was twelve he stayed behind in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph sought him with fear and sorrow in their hearts.

During his public life Mary didn’t always understand what Jesus was doing. She feared he was being taken over by the crowds. She saw how the religious leaders and others turned against him. Seeing him hanging on the cross, the sword of sorrow pierced Mary’s heart, and a spear pierced the heart of her Son.

In light of all this we see that that Holy Family did not live a sheltered and trouble free life. Our families too are visited by sorrow, misunderstandings, and problems of one kind or another. Because the Holy Family knew the same, it becomes a model for us.

There is no such thing as a perfect family. Wherever human beings are living under one roof misunderstandings and conflicts arise. All of us are wounded by sin. What is important is how we deal with these problems, and how we resolve conflicts.

The Holy Family reminds us that holiness is the fruit of sacrifice and struggle. While it is true, there is no place like home, it is also true that there is no such place as a perfect home. As we honor the Holy Family, we ask for their prayers for the continued sanctity and dignity of home and family life.

— Fr. Dennis, December 27, 2020