THE HOLY FAMILY
ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14; colossians 3:12-17; matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
during an audience, pope paul vi spoke about an experience he had when he was archbishop of milan. he was visiting families in a parish and he found an elderly woman living alone. «how are you?» he asked her. she answered: «not bad. i have enough food, and i’m not suffering from the cold.» «you must be reasonably happy then?» he said. «no, i’m not,» she said and started to cry. «my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. i’m dying of loneliness.» and the pope concluded: «food and warmth are not enough; people need something more. they need our presence, our time, our love. they need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten.»
this «something more» is what a family ought to provide! a family provides not merely material needs but also and especially emotional and spiritual needs... it provides warmth which comes not from things but from persons.
the gospel graphically describes how joseph and mary leave home and possessions, family and homeland to preserve their son from herod’s wrath. they step out of their comfort zone, and live in a country they did not know, with languages and customs not their own, to meet their son’s need for safety and security.
in a family, children, too, have obligations. the first reading exhorts children to honour, respect and obey their parents, and to help them in their old age. it promises blessings on those who keep the fourth commandment.
and paul in his letter to the colossians suggests attitudes and virtues for the whole family: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness... and above all, love. he urges us to «let the peace of christ reign in our hearts.»
today’s feast of the holy family and the readings give us a blue-print for family life: each member of the family has a responsibility to reach out in love and service to the other members... in and through the difficulties, struggles and tensions of human life and relating.
how will reach out to the other members of my family? will i become aware of their needs and get out of my comfort zone to meet those needs? will i put on compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love, and foster peace??