Mary and Joseph and Jesus were a Holy and a troubled family – troubled from the word ‘go.’ Mary was pregnant before her marriage – Joseph had a mind to call off the wedding but in some way these two young people knew God was asking something special of them. We’ve just celebrate the birth of Mary’s first born under heartbreaking circumstances, in a stable meant for animals. Her son’s first bed was in a feeding trough. Forty days after his birth while fulfilling the requirements of the law that every first born Jewish male was to be dedicated to the Lord a strange man named Simeon intruded into this happy occasion and basically told Mary this child or yours is going to break your heart.
We can’t be sure when it happened but within two years of the birth of Jesus the gospel writer Matthew tells us Mary and Joseph and the child had to flee to Egypt to protect the child from King Herod, a king frightened by the news brought to him by the Magi that there was a new born king of the Jews.
Returning from Egypt, again we don’t know when, Joseph decided the family would make its home in Nazareth. In today’s gospel we find the Holy Family in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover. Obviously they didn’t have Amber Alerts in Jerusalem in those days. Nothing can be more traumatic to a mother and father than to have a child go missing. Mary and Joseph were three days on the way home when they realized Jesus was missing, he wasn’t in the caravan. They must have been frantic looking for him. When they found him in the temple Mary gave him ‘what for’ and wasn’t satisfied with his answer that he had to be in the Temple, his Father’s house. They took Jesus home to Nazareth where he behaved himself and didn’t give them any more trouble. Sometime after that, again we don’t when, but Joseph died and Mary and Jesus grieved the death of this loving husband and father.
We don’t how much Mary understood of Jesus’ public ministry but he certainly made a name for himself in Capernaum as a preacher and a healer. When Jesus came home for a visit Mary must have been confused if not embarrassed at the reaction of her neighbours to what he said in the synagogue about prophets not being accepted in their own town and by their own people. His offended neighbours ran him out of town. The worst day of Mary’s life was on a Friday we call ‘good.’ Mary saw her son die the cruel, humiliating death of a common criminal. When she looked at her suffering son and read the mock inscription nailed over his head ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews’ did Mary remember the promise of the Angel Gabriel, ‘he shall be great and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever?”
Mary, Joseph and Jesus were a holy family and they were a troubled family. They were not spared the troubles, the uncertainties, the conflicts, the joys and the sorrows that are part and parcel of any family’s life. Family life keeps changing. We can’t say what is normal anymore. We have the two parent and children families, we have separated families with children different on weekends with different parents, we have single parent families and we have gay couples with adopted children making a family. In all these variation of the reality of family life today there are solid and happy families, troubled and broken families all struggling to make ends meet and hold things together.
All such families are all part of the reality of our parish family; they all hold our parish together and are important to us all. On this feast of the Holy Family we pray for them and we support them all. In all our family joys and struggles may we all be strengthen by the words of St. John when he tells us –see what love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God for that is what we are. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s family, a Father/Mother who loves us more than we love ourselves. May His great love sustain us in our efforts to live our lives as best we can in our present circumstances