FaithZette

The Holy Family: Insights to Inspire Us in Faith

Today's parents need to demonstrate an authentic Christian lifestyle by the power of their example and by the peace in their hearts

At times, we can forget that Jesus was born and raised within the confines of a family.

He had a mom and dad and spent the majority of His life working as a carpenter, alongside His father, St. Joseph.

Related: Jesus: The Light of the World

There is not a lot of information in Scripture.

But we can at least glean a few insights from the word of God and try to penetrate this deep mystery as we prepare for the feast of the Holy Family, which is celebrated on Sunday, December 30.

“There was no room for them at the Inn” (Luke 2:7).  Jesus was born in a cave, surrounded by animals and piles of straw.

There was no room in the inn, perhaps because they could not afford it, and they had to find a way to make it work. The Holy Family later spent most of their lives in Nazareth, a very poor town, and in the words of American archaeologist James Strange, “Nazareth is not mentioned in ancient Jewish sources earlier than the third century CE. This likely reflects its lack of prominence both in Galilee and Judaea.”

Christ chose to be born in a podunk town, and He chose to be born into a simple and austere environment, perhaps so that most families in the world could identify with Him and feel His solidarity in their journey through life.

I have been touched on mission trips to poverty-stricken towns in El Salvador, Mexico and Colombia to see how much this example helps these folks get through their own struggles, knowing the Holy Family found a way to manage as well.

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2: 22). They were extremely devout and practiced their faith as a team.

A family that prays together, stays together — and it is easy to imagine Jesus, Mary and Joseph reading the Torah and psalms together in a prayerful and meditative way, always pondering God’s providential hand working through their family.

The home is a “domestic church,” where children should discover God as a father and friend, a safe place to freely talk about the meaning of life and the things that really matter.

Parents need to assume this spiritual leadership and show children the way, by the power of their example and by the peace in their heart that comes from an authentic Christian lifestyle.

“The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). The main concern of Joseph and Mary was instilling Jesus with wisdom and strength to complete the mission that lay ahead of him. Virtue was taught, moral excellence was instilled, and examples of selflessness and magnanimity abounded.

Today, there is a risk of focusing more on getting children into Harvard and not so much on getting them into heaven. These do not need to be rival goals; there should be more of an effort on academic success, with the goal of influencing culture by reaching the pinnacle of the various professions.

Imagine if we had holier politicians, holier bankers, holier partners of law firms, holier Hollywood stars and athletes … How much our American culture would benefit! If you are a friend of Jesus and truly live to glorify God, this often results in many personal and societal blessings.

“Mary stood at the foot of the cross” (John 19, 25). Through thick and thin, our Blessed Mother faithfully accompanied her Son, even putting her own life on the line. What an example for all parents.

Mary also gives us an incredible example of accepting God’s plan, even if it meant that “a sword would pierce her heart” — watching her beloved son die in a horrific way on the cross.

Family is deep and it is different from all other human bonds. We can choose our friends and our career, but God chooses those with whom He wants us to spend the adventure of life.

We need to be there for each other, especially when times are hard.

Let’s take a moment to thank the Holy Family for giving us such a wonderful example — and ask them to accompany us in truly forming a “community of life and love.”

St. John Paul II reminds us, “For every believer, and especially for Christian families, the humble dwelling place in Nazareth is an authentic school of the Gospel. Here we admire and put into practice the divine plan to make the family an intimate community of life and love. Here we learn that every Christian family is called to be a small ‘domestic church’ that must shine with the Gospel virtues.”

“Recollection and prayer, mutual understanding and respect, personal discipline and community asceticism, and a spirit of sacrifice, work and solidarity are typical features that make the family of Nazareth a model for every home.”

Let’s take a moment to thank the Holy Family for giving us such a wonderful example — and ask them to accompany us in truly forming a “community of life and love.”

Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.