Dear brothers and sisters,
The first Sunday after Christmas in the liturgy of the Church we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The reason for this is that the Holy Family of Nazareth is the model for all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways. Today we are called to meditate on the message of God who is with us, Jesus Christ, was born for us and grew up in a regular, normal family. That means Jesus, our God, understands our family life.
In the gospel according Luke we find an episode immediately after the birth of Jesus. "The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger". At this point we can ask: Why did the shepherds went to Bethlehem? "The shepherds made haste, partly no doubt from human curiosity, in order to see this great thing that had been announced to them. But surely, too, they were driven by their joy on hearing that now, truly, the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord had been born, the one so long awaited - and they would be the first to see him.
How many Christians make haste today, where the things of God are concerned? Surely if anything merits haste - so the evangelist is discreetly telling us - then it is the things of God". (BXVI)
The shepherds were invited to visit the Holy Family and find Jesus the New born child. Today when we celebrate the Holy Family we are invited to visit the Holy Family and even better we are called to invite the Holy Family into our life. Because the Holy Family is for us the example of how we can live, this desire is expressed in today's opening prayer which we have heard before the reading: "help us to live as the holy family, united in respect and love".
The opening prayer reminds us that there are two essential elements in family life: respect and love. Of course we know that respect and love are the elements of natural social life. That's true but today the Church helps us remember that respect and love have special importance for the family and sacramental marriage. The Church teaches us: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life (...) has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized". (CCL1055) Sometimes, especially young people ask what is the true meaning of marriage and love. Pope Francis in apostolic exhortations Amoris Letitia explains what is marriage:
"At the centre we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Mt 19:4). We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24)”.
"In speaking of marriage, Jesus refers us to yet another page of Genesis, which, in its second chapter, paints a splendid and detailed portrait of the couple. First, we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit for him”. The original Hebrew suggests a direct encounter, face to face, eye to eye, in a kind of silent dialogue, for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words. It is an encounter with a face, a “thou”, who reflects God’s own love and is man’s “best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support”, in the words of the biblical sage (Sir 36:24). Or again, as the woman of the Song of Solomon will sing in a magnificent profession of love and mutual self-bestowal: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine".
But we know very well that marriage is not only a love story but very often a big challenge and story of daily sacrifice. Even the Holy Family were not free these troubles and problems. We remember the reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Joseph decided to divorced Mary informally. Only the intervention of angel changed Joseph's decision. After the birth of Jesus the Holy Family don't have a easy life. Today's gospel speaks about the escape into Egypt of Holy Family. "The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him". At this point we can observe that God looks after this special family. If God protects Holy Family, today He can protect our family. We need only ask for this protection and we need to be able to hear the voice of God who gives us instructions like He gave Joseph in today's gospel. Saint Joseph is for us an example to follow, his capacity to perceive the divine and his ability to discern, is necessary today for us, for our daily life. Only a man who is inwardly watchful for the divine, only someone with a real sensitivity for God and his ways, can receive God's message in this way.
Today celebrating the Holy Family from Nazareth we ask this special protection for our family. We ask for the gift of love for all families but especially the capacity of forgiveness because without this gift it is impossible to build a true family where we can find respect and love.