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 | By Elizabeth Hansen and Faith Catholic Staff

Together with the Holy Family, we are called to walk in the ways of the Lord

Celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas, the feast of the Holy Family is appropriately placed on the liturgical calendar linking the Incarnation of Jesus to the human family who loved and taught him – who protected him. It’s tempting to cast the Holy Family in the warm, romanticized glow of a Hallmark holiday movie: Mary and Joseph cluster idyllically over Jesus, standing guard against anything that might shatter the peace. The model of the perfect family – end scene.

In other words, we imagine the Holy Family as totally different from ourselves. Well, in a sense they were. They were perfect in virtue and obedience to God. They were holy. They were also fully human, which means that what they attained is within reach for each one of us. But this feast is not about trying to make them more like us so we can “relate” to them; rather, it is a reminder that we are called to imitate them in their holiness. They weren’t ordinary, which is why we celebrate them! But we all have been given graces by God to be more like them.

In an Angelus address on this feast in 2013, Pope Francis said, “God wanted to be born into a human family, he wanted to have a mother and father like us.” Certainly the Holy Family endured trials and sorrow in their day-to-day-lives, and Pope Francis went on to say, “Jesus wanted to belong to a family who experienced these hardships, so that no one would feel excluded from the loving closeness of God.”

For good reason, then, the Church holds up the Holy Family as an example for all Christian homes, not just the idyllic ones.

When he kicked off the Year of the Family at the end of 2020, Pope Francis reflected that even the Son of God needed “the warmth of a family, like all children,” which is a humbling reminder that our homes are children’s first experience of love and mercy.

Yet for many, family can be a beautiful but painful ideal. What does the feast of the Holy Family have to say to them? The Holy Family welcomes them with open arms. In nativity scenes, Mary and Jesus may stand like pillars over Jesus, but they’re the pillars of a home that makes room for every guest.

The Holy Family can help guide us and give us strength. As they placed God at the center of their lives, let us invite Jesus to bring his loving presence into our homes on this feast day. Let him bind us together, heal our divisions and offer us the grace to give ourselves over to loving God and others. Then we will truly be members of God’s holy family. 

None of our families experience perfect bliss this side of heaven, and certainly some feel the world’s brokenness more acutely than others. But the Holy Family’s open arms don’t welcome us into an idealized vision of home life – they open their hands to accompany us on our way.