Today the Church celebrates on the traditional calendar the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is the feast of the only truly functional family in human history, the only family for whom Love was always the rule of the house. It is the feast of God’s Family, to which we all belong as members of Jesus Christ.
It is deeply important for each one of us to realize that we are truly members of the Holy Family. We live in a time in history when family life is particularly damaged by sin and selfishness and dysfunction of all kinds. So many of us come from broken homes or from family situations marked by abuse or addiction or neglect. So many of us bear within us the wounds and scars of family disorder. The darkness of the state of family life today makes ever more sweet the truth that we all belong to the Holy Family.
In our formation in the Holy Family, with St. Joseph as our father and Blessed Mary as our Mother, we have Jesus as our Brother and Lord. We live in Him and receive in Him the Love of God manifest in the holy charity of this home in Nazareth. Here we find all the love and security and trust we need in order to bring divine love into our own family situations, whatever they may be.
One of the great errors of our time is that the health of a family or of a marriage depends on the love of the family members or the spouses. When this love wanes or is found wanting, we then give up on our families or our marriages and turn in on ourselves in isolation or divorce. This, of course, is all backwards. The health of our families depends on God’s love, which we receive from our relationship with Him. Having received the ability to love from God Himself, we then bring that divine love into our families and marriages. Therefore, it is possible for one to be a most excellent husband or wife or family member in a highly dysfunctional family situation. For the quality of our family life is measured in our own love for the other members of the family.
The family is a school of love and love is its very soul. This is why the Holy Family is so excellent and functional. This is why it’s so good for us to be members of the Holy Family. We are taught by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph how to receive love from God and how to give that love to the other members of our family. The real threat to love in family life is selfishness. In the life of the Holy Family, there was never any selfishness. Selfishness is a poison for family life, a sure recipe for dysfunction and unhappiness.
All the members of a family must guard against all forms of selfishness in their own hearts and in the lives of their families. Fathers of families, especially, as the protectors must imitate St. Joseph in protecting their families from every type of selfishness. Joy and peace come to family life only through a love that is free from selfishness. This is expressed most deeply and profoundly in the conjugal love between husband and wife. When selfishness enters into that conjugal love through the use of contraception, then the poison of selfishness has infected the most vulnerable heart of family life. Generosity and self-giving are the rule of married love and family life and only in living them, with the help of God, will married couples find true joy.
So we rejoice today in the feast of our Family. We thank God for giving us such a wonderful environment in which to feel loved, in which to feel that we belong, that we are secure, that we are accepted and cherished. Each person belongs to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We pray today that all we feel the warm embrace of Nazareth.
Fr. Joseph Previtali