As believing Christians, we are called to look at the Sacred Scriptures for valuable lessons in living our lives. What do we see in the pages of the Bible when we examine the lives of those comprising the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary and Joseph?
First, we see two particularly faith-filled people more than willing to do God’s Will. We hear Mary’s often-quoted response to the angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38) We also see Joseph’s obedient reaction to angel of the Lord telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife into his home: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Mt. 1: 24) Joseph was also obedient in relocating Mary and Jesus to Egypt (Mt. 2:13-14) and in returning them once again to Israel. (Mt. 2: 19-21)
As we look further, we see the many difficulties that this couple had to face: pregnancy outside of wedlock (albeit, a miraculous pregnancy without marital relations) (Lk. 1:26 ff), no dignified place to give birth or to live (Lk. 2:7), a threat to the life of the child (Mt. 2:13 ff), substantial distances to travel (Mt. 2:13 & 2:20), and the scare and worry over a lost child (Mt. 2:41 ff). Later, Mary was witness to the brutal torture and death of her Son on the cross (John 19: 25-27). These were not the easiest life experiences to have to face, if you ask me!
Although most details are absent, we can surmise that this family prayed together, went to the synagogue regularly, worked hard and faced the various concerns that go with raising a child in Israel at that particular time.
Contrast this situation with the many bizarre concepts that we are subjected to in TV sit-coms like Modern Family, Family Guy, The Simpsons or All In the Family, to name just a few. A tagline for Modern Family gives enough information to let us know that we are not dealing with anything resembling a Leave It to Beaver family: “One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.” The Simpsons deals with a “dysfunctional family” headed by Homer, the “oafish, unhealthy, beer-loving father” and including Bart "the ten year old underachiever (and proud of it)." One only has to have a brief glimpse of the irreverent humor of creator and comedian Seth MacFarlane, to know that the content of Family Guy is going to be Offensive—with a capital O. Finally, most people see Archie Bunker (of All In the Family) as an icon for the bigoted, questionably-educated, pseudo-conservative male. Not the best examples of family life to be found anywhere around here, unfortunately.
I close with words from a man much holier and more intelligent than I will ever be, Blessed (now Saint) John Paul II:
I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families—indeed, all the families in the world—to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.
St. Joseph was "a just man," a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.
May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of "the Church of the home." Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a "little Church" in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life. May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God. May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their families. (Familiaris Consortio, # 86)
Fr. Ed Namiotka