Today’s reflection is for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, December 29, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
Today the readings from Sacred Scripture address the issue of what is a Holy Family and secondly, how we are to become holy families today. Both of these points are derived from our observance of the 4th Commandment, namely, to honor our father and mother, and can be found in the C.C.C. 2197 – 2246.
Though we reflect today upon the holy family, I think it’s important to start with holiness itself. Holiness is what each of us is called toward, and what each of us desires in the deepest part of ourselves—whether we know it or not; admit to it or not. One of my favorite songs is, “Holiness, holiness, is what I long for. Holiness is what I need. Holiness, holiness is what you want from me.” Holiness is the ONLY thing that matters in this life. It should be on our heart and mind every moment of every day. This would be an excellent answer to give when someone asks what you are doing. “Hey Stephen, what are you up?” “Oh, you know, just growing in holiness—same as always.”
What does it even mean to be holy? Does it mean that we’re perfect? Does it mean that our family is perfect? No. To be holy does not mean to perfect, but rather to be “set apart.” People and things that are holy are “set apart” for God’s purposes. Ordinary water, once blessed, becomes holy water…set apart for God’s purposes of blessing people and objects. Oil, once blessed, become holy oil, set apart for God’s purposes anointing at baptism, confirmation, and for anointing of the sick.
Throughout time God has called his people to be a holy nation, a nation set apart, to provide an example to other nations of what it looks like to honor Him. Within his people God has set apart individuals to advance his kingdom: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Sampson, Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and John the Baptist, and today we celebrate that God calls families.
A holy family is a family set apart for God’s service. Scripture teaches us at the end of the 2nd chapter of Luke that Mary and Joseph took their responsibility to prepare Jesus for service to his Father in heaven by teaching him to pray, taking him to Jerusalem, teaching him about the law, and demanding observance of the law. And Jesus was obedient toward them. They were a holy family that prayed together, spoke of God and walked with God, kept the Sabbath holy, and attended “parish festivals.” Shouldn’t we be doing the same? Do we?
I think we live in a world today that has largely forgotten the respect, honor, and obedience that is rightfully due to parents and authorities by children. But also, too many have neglected to do the hard work of parenting, by providing boundaries, creating schedules, teaching prayers, praying together, keeping the Sabbath Holy—an entire day set apart for God’s purposes—and finally, teaching and demanding respect for parents and legitimate authority.
We are each individually, and as a family called to be holy, and to live out our holiness in our schools, workplaces, and nation. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church said it like this, “…all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; …They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor.” (#39) Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, also preached the universal call to holiness back in 1928. His emphasis was particularly for lay people, like most of us, living an everyday life and doing ordinary work. He wrote, “There is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each of you to discover it.”
My brothers and sisters, holiness, to be like God, to be entirely set apart for God’s purposes, begins in the family. A holy family is itself set apart and is obedient to God’s will, and both teaches and lives the value of being other-worldly. It means making family decisions about where to live, what to wear, where to go, what to eat, who to hang around, what to buy, what to watch and especially how to vote, so that we contribute to and promote the kind of Godly nation we want to live in and that God desires.
I’d like you to reflect with me this week on the degree to which your family as a whole, and you in particular is holy—and striving to grow in holiness. You see holiness is not all or nothing, but rather by degree. We grow in holiness, our family reflects holiness, and our nation and world becomes more holy to the degree that we do.
For the next few months we’ll be looking more closely on the Universal Call to Holiness—with a special emphasis on being a holy family. We have much to learn from the Scriptures, the Catechism, the Second Vatican Council, and the Saints of the Church! Be open, be honest, and prepare to be transformed!