The feast of the Holy Family is a call, a witness, a proclamation to the world of a truth which is threatened. The truth is that the fundamental vocation of the family is to be the privileged place, the most important place in the world where life is welcomed, protected and proclaimed. (This is why the Holy Family is the model of family – because at its heart is life itself, the fullness of life, Jesus who is God).
Popular views of the family today give great value to love between two people in the sense of emotions, feelings, personal choice and personal freedom. Whilst important these are only the surface of family and are on their own inadequate. In a true family, as in the Holy Family, personal freedom, what I want, what I choose gives way to the service of life. Our Lady did not choose to be the Mother of God, she was chosen, St Joseph was not going to marry Our Lady but God told him to, neither Joseph or Mary wanted persecution, neither choose to move to Egypt, Mary did not feel good about a sword of sorrow piercing her heart, she did not choose to see her son die on the cross. All these things happened because Mary and Joseph chose to serve not themselves but life.
Mary, deeply disturbed by the Angel’s greeting, Joseph anxious and alarmed, enter into marriage, pledge their faithfulness on the basis of their trust in God. And that choice, made in faith, is revealed, becomes flesh in their service of the life, God’s life, entrusted to them.
Like the priesthood, the Vocation to Marriage, if it is to be lived by weak and sinful people, depends utterly on the grace of God and our openness to it. Like the priesthood it reveals and makes God present in the world. In the relationship of love and self giving revealed in the intimate communion at the heart of marriage, a communion which can create life, we see in the sacrament of marriage the image of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is the source of life. In the faithfulness, forgiveness and sacrifice, which exists between Husband and Wife, Parents and Children we see the faithfulness, forgiveness and sacrifice of Christ for His Body the Church and for each of us His children. And in that openness to and welcome for new life at the heart of the family we see that openness to the Holy Spirit at the heart of the Church which brings a deepening of faith hope and love as well as a courageous living and proclaiming of the Gospel.
Do not think this is an impossible dream or a counsel of perfection. It is the truth. If I was to teach the priesthood based only on how I live it - it would be a poor teaching indeed. I proclaim the priesthood of Christ and rejoice that, by God grace, inspite of my sins and failings I am privileged to share in it. So too with the family, rejoice in the dignity of the vocation to marriage, a dignity revealed in the act of creation, in the Holy Family and in the teaching of Christ and his church. And those of you who are married, rejoice that you are , in spite of everything able to share in it.
I would be a bad priest if I did not inform myself of the Church’s teaching, examine my conscience, seek God’s help and endeavour for your sakes to be a better priest. Likewise married couples, with trust in God, inform yourself of the Church’s teaching, examine your consciences, seek God’s help and endeavour for the sake of the world to live more fully your vocation. If you are living the sacrament of marriage at the moment then this is your day. We thank you because through your unity as man and wife, by your service of life, by guiding and challenging society, by growing in faith and forming your children you bring life, divine life into the world.
Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus Mary and Joseph pray for us.