This week we celebrate the feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We hear in the collect the message that we need to look to the Holy Family as a model, “to imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bond of charity.” While the picture of the Holy Family is a structural model of mother, father and child, we all know that a family goes well beyond just Mom and Dad and the kids but includes grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. This is clearly evident if you let your eyes wander around at your parish. The true definition of family is a relational model, not a structural model.
Just what are the virtues of family life? By now, the crèche in your church has been there about a week. It’s very pretty and probably all lit up — a beautiful sight on which to gaze. However, if you really allow yourself to be there in that scene, you can imagine how Mary and Joseph must have been frightened not only for themselves, but also for this tiny baby. Just like many families today, Mary and Joseph wondered how they were going to manage and financially support their new family. And then on top of that they had to travel to a foreign country soon after Jesus’ birth. Talk about trial and tribulation.
The daily life of the Holy Family was probably no different than our own. Mary and Joseph endured parenting anxieties, with all of its joy and sorrow; but like all relationships they had to communicate, nurture and support each other in this journey they were on. And like many families do today, they also worshiped at temple. Every Sunday at church, I see adults with children of all ages in the pews. This is not always an easy task. It takes time, energy and sometimes a bit a cajoling to get everyone out of the door to be at Mass. But like the Holy Family, it is part of who they are as a family: there is no disconnect between their lives at home or their lives in worship.
The commitment to care and love each other doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires work and attention to the most basic commitment of all — to God. And it happens in the larger context of both the home family and the church family — the two are inextricably connected. As Catholics, we believe that above all, God comes first and whatever we do is in the name of God. Mary and Joseph didn’t question their role in salvation history; they lived it. There was no hesitation.
Just as in the home family, where all members take turns to do the chores, the church family requires us to be active participants, whether our ability is only to pray or whether we have talents that add to the intrinsic value of the overall life of the church family. If you haven’t volunteered lately, maybe now is the time to take your turn and do your part. Let’s look to the Holy Family as a model of love and commitment not just to each other, but also to the larger family of God.
Wettstein is director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.