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Bulletin: December 26, 2021

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

It wasn’t at all what Mary and Joseph expected their life to be like. Almost from the beginning, there were indications that something extraordinary was at work: Mary’s angelic annunciation; Joseph’s strange dream; the puzzling words of Simeon and Anna in the Temple. And now this: during Mary and Joseph’s annual Passover journey to Jerusalem, the discovery that their son Jesus was lost—and even when he was found, they didn’t totally recognize their twelve-year-old boy. Today’s feast of the Holy Family reminds us of the perplexities and promise of family life. The mystery of “the Word made flesh” becomes very tangible indeed in the routines and foibles of family life—our Christmas gatherings were likely unmistakable reminders of that! From the pure flesh of a newborn child to the wizened flesh of a beloved grandmother, families are ground zero for glimpsing the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation.


A child’s first words are usually a source of excitement and joy for family members. Today we hear the first words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke. And they are challenging ones. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” The words astounded, astonished, and great anxiety are used to describe Jesus’ extended visit to the Temple. How familiar those emotions are to most parents! Had Jesus’ parents forgotten the angel Gabriel’s words or the prophecy of Simeon? In Luke’s Gospel this passage foreshadows Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem where he will experience his own Passover and again be “lost” for three days. The story of Hannah in the first reading confirms the need and nature of trusting in God’s activity in our lives. It seems clear that faithful attention to a family’s spiritual life is no guarantee that life will be free from hardship.


Could Tolstoy have gotten it wrong when he wrote that all happy families are alike and that unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way? It seems that the opposite is equally true. Because happy families foster the unique talents and interests of each member, each person shines according to their own lights. A happy family’s faith, goals, and challenges will be uniquely their own. Unhappy families, on the other hand, might look very similar in their woundedness, their fears and confrontations, and their tendency to give negative interpretations to another’s actions.

It is tempting to conclude that family life today is more problematic than ever. It might be reassuring to learn that the feast of the Holy Family was added to the Church’s universal calendar because of Pope Leo XIII’s concern for the state of family life—one hundred years ago! During this season of Christmas when families are everywhere, we welcome Emmanuel—the God who has pitched his tent among us.

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